East 29.10.09: Plan for new settlement in Jerusalem

29 Oct 2009

The press has recently reported a plan to build a new settlement on territory that was annexed to Jerusalem in 1967. Behind the plan are persons close to settler organizations in East Jerusalem, among them Meir Davidson, who was in charge of assets acquisition for the non-profit society Ateret Cohanim.

The proposed settlement, given the name Givat Yael, is to be located in southwest Jerusalem, on land of the Palestinian village al-Walajah. The land includes built-up portions of the village, east of the route of the Separation Barrier planned for this area.

The village of al-Walajah, which lies southwest of Jerusalem, was founded in 1948 by residents of the original village of al-Walajah, on whose ruins the moshav [cooperative settlement] Aminadav was built. The new village, in which 2,000 Palestinians currently live, was built on farmland of the original village. In 1967, Israel annexed to Jerusalem most of the current village's farmland, leaving a large percentage of the houses on land outside the city's municipal boundaries. Residents of the annexed area did not receive Israeli identity cards. Therefore, they are considered “illegal residents” in their homes, and suffer from various kinds of harassment by Israeli authorities, primarily regarding building permits. The Separation Barrier's route was originally intended to run along the Jerusalem Municipality's border, between houses of the village. It was later changed, leaving all the village's houses east of the barrier and all the villagers' farmland west of it. The planned barrier will surround the houses on all sides, creating a finger of land that will connect the Har Gilo settlement to Jerusalem.

The plan was prepared by the private architectural firm of Jerusalem's city engineer, Shlomo Eshkol, before he took his current position. The settlement will run from the south and east to the railroad tracks in South Jerusalem to the ridge of al-Walajah, creating a contiguous built-up area that will link Jerusalem and the Har Gilo settlement. The plan calls for 14,000 apartments, which will house 45,000 persons (1.5 times the population of the Gilo settlement). To realize the plan, it will be necessary to expropriate a massive amount of privately-owned Palestinian land, and it will possibly also entail demolition of some houses of residents of the village.

The plan has not yet been discussed in the local or district planning committees. The area on which the settlement is to be built is designated on Jerusalem's new outline plan as a green area, on which construction is completely forbidden. However, the building plans in East Jerusalem classify many areas as green so as to prevent Palestinian residents of the city to build on them. Although the new outline plan has not yet been approved, the District Planning and Building Committee relied on it when it decided to reject an application submitted by residents of al-Walajah to approve 95 existing buildings in the village and its expansion.

In addition to the anticipated harm to residents of al-Walajah, who are liable to lose their homes, property, and village, building of the settlement will breach international humanitarian law, which prohibits the occupying power to transfer its population to occupied territory and to make permanent changes there. The establishment, existence, and expansion of settlements also cause ongoing and extensive infringement of Palestinian rights, among them the right to property, the right to freedom of movement, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to water, the right to sanitation, and the right to self-determination.