A request to build a Jewish housing project of 104 units at the foot of Jerusalem’s Mt. of Olives, down the block from the Maaleh HaZeitim (Ras el-Amud) neighborhood, has been submitted. The location is currently populated predominantly by Arabs.
Jerusalem reclamation activist Aryeh King says that Jewish construction there, within walking distance of the Western Wall, is “of tremendous importance… This is the only way to prevent the division of Jerusalem.”
A Haaretz article on the topic sounds very alarmed at the prospect, warning against the prospect of a “Jewish settlement in the heart of” an Arab population center.
Haaretz reports that the “settlement of Maaleh Zeitim across the street” currently has 51 families, with another 66 housing units under construction, and that “when the two neighborhoods are completed and linked, a Jewish settlement of more than 1,000 people will be situated in the heart of Ras al-Amud, a neighborhood comprised of 14,000 Palestinians.”
The new neighborhood is to have a library, mikveh (ritual bath), and a synagogue, and will be connected to Maaleh Zeitim by a walkway.
The new project is likely to be approved by the municipality, as the area is zoned for housing and there is no dispute as to the ownership of the property. The site of the former Judea/Samaria District police station – 11 dunams (2.7 acres) in area – is owned by the Bukharim Association. However, a city spokesman told Army Radio, “The plan is being considered by the appropriate professional teams, and has not been approved for advancement because it does not correspond with the city planning policy for that area.”
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, relating to United States objections to Jewish construction in eastern Jerusalem, said, “What do we have to be afraid of? On the contrary, we have to prove here to the U.S. that we, too, don’t act in opposition to court rulings.”
The Ir Amim (City of Nations) organization, as expected, is opposed to the project, and says that everything must be done to prevent a Jewish take-over of areas in which Arabs live.