Israel Launches Massive Project to Settle Jews in East Jeruslaem

The Housing Ministry, urged on by religious activists, is engaged in a major new project aimed at settling Jews in Arab-populated areas of East Jerusalem.

According to the Jerusalem weekly Kol Ha’ir, new Jewish neighborhoods will be built on land confiscated by the state when Jerusalem was reunified in 1967.

The plan has the enthusiastic support of Ateret Cohanim, a yeshiva in the Old City whose goal is Jewish population in all Jerusalem. It was drafted by Shmuel Meir, a National Religious Party leader in Jerusalem, who convinced Housing Minister Ariel Sharon to adopt it.

The plan is intended to advance demographic changes in the city by driving Jewish wedges into existing Arab neighborhoods. Previously that goal was achieved by encircling the Arab neighborhoods with massive Jewish housing projects.

The new plan is opposed by Mayor Teddy Kollek, who argues that the same end could be achieved by less provocative means. But the 80-year-old mayor has been deserted by a majority of the City Council on this issue. In any event, the Housing Ministry is authorized to approve any project of over 200 units.

The plan calls for the construction of 4,000 new housing units on four plots aggregating about 1,100 acres. The area includes 40 acres of Wadi Joz, an Arab community at the foot of the Mount of Olives.

An accelerated licensing process, speeded up to facilitate housing for new immigrants, is now advancing the East Jerusalem projects. Sharon claims it is part of a continuing process to build all over Eretz Yisrael, the biblical Land of Israel.

That encompasses the administered territories, where the issue of settlements is the subject of a tense national debate. But building in East Jerusalem is well within the national consensus.

Kollek’s quarrel with Sharon is over the minister’s aggressive pursuit of Jewish hegemony.

“We have settled 120,000 Jews in the formerly Jordanian part of the city without much ado,” Kollek said. “Now the government jeopardizes past achievements. The exhibitionist activities of Sharon disturb me because in our quiet ways we have accomplished more.”

NEXT STORY