Israel is planning to build a settlement belt around the occupied city of Jerusalem to increase the Jewish population density at the expense of Jerusalemites within the “Holy Basin” project, experts on Jerusalem affairs said.
In the second and third legislative readings, the Israeli Knesset approved a bill allowing the construction of houses and residential units in areas that had recently been deemed national parks in Jerusalem.
This law, according to Jerusalemites, allows the Elad settlement association to build within public parks near Al Aqsa Mosque, which is called the “City of David” National Park, in the Silwan neighborhood.
The National Parks Law was issued in 1974, where the Israeli side controlled hundreds of dunums in the Old City of Jerusalem and was included in the municipality’s ‘tourist’ areas. The authorities did not grant any building permits in these parks throughout this period.
Despite this, members of the Knesset saw the settlement expansion bill into the national park pass with a voting turnout of 61 votes of approval to 41 votes rejecting the bill.
Holy Basin Project
“The Judaization operations taking place in the city of Jerusalem come within the framework of a plan supervised by the government, the municipality of Jerusalem and the settlement associations to build a settlement belt around the city for 50 kilometers to increase the Jewish population density,” said Jamal Amro, a Jerusalem researcher.
“The Holy Basin is part of the Greater Jerusalem project, which aims to increase the area of the city from 126 square kilometers to 800 kilometers by 2022, including changing the demographic reality in the city,” he said.
In an interview with Arab21, Jerusalem affairs expert, Al-Maqdisi, said that “to expedite the implementation of this plan, the municipality of the occupation is practicing a form of discrimination between Jews and Palestinians. This is done by removing all obstacles to building any property for Israeli citizens, compared with 16 years to give approval to the Palestinian citizen of Jerusalem. Municipal revenues from taxes and fees for Jerusalemites are estimated at 170 million dollars annually, compared to 60 million dollars collected from Jews, although the proportion of the population in the city is two-thirds to one-third for the Jews”.
Increase in Settlement Activity
In the same context, the head of the Islamic Christian High Commission in Jerusalem, Hanna Issa, says that “the Israeli occupation government increased the settlement activity during the year by 1000 percent, accompanied by the increase of the settlement budget by 600 percent, and the number of outposts in Jerusalem to 500, which is the largest figure since its occupation in 1967”.
Issa said in an interview with Arab21 that “the number of settlement houses for the year 2017 amounted to 6742 compared to 2629 for 2016. Planned settlements envisions for this year to increase the number of settlement units seven fold compared to the previous year.”
To add to the problem in protesting this expansion, member of the Jerusalem Committee in the Legislative Council, Samira Halayqa, pointed out that “the city of Jerusalem lacks formal and popular forms of solidarity due to the Israeli occupation’s measures that prevent the deputies of the Legislative Council from entering the city, which also prohibits any forms of protest under the pretext of security risks”.
“What is happening in Jerusalem is out of Palestinian control, and this threatens serious repercussions for the future of the city unless there is Arab and international action to stop the Judaization in Jerusalem.”