Environment Minister Amir Peretz on Thursday informed the Jerusalem District Planning Council that he was indefinitely postponing a discussion on the establishment of a national park on Mount Scopus. Peretz has several times expressed opposition to the establishment of the Mount Scopus Slopes Park, putting him at odds with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Peretz is a currently a member of Hatnu'a but was a longtime Labor Party MK, as well as an architect of the leftist Geneva Initiative which advocates a complete withdrawal of Israel from almost all land liberated in the 1967 Six Day War. Although his party (both current and former) claims to be against splitting Jerusalem in the event of a final-status settlement with the Palestinian Authority, Peretz already announced last September that he was opposed to establishment of the park.
According to Peretz, the reason for his opposition is not political, but because the planning for the park has not been up to the standards he has set. However, according to many on the right, including Tourism Minister Uzi Landau (Likud Beyteinu), Peretz has been under pressure for months by leftist groups to prevent the project from advancing. The park is next to the Arab Isawiya and A-Tur neighborhoods, both of which are opposed to the project because it will prevent expansion of the neighborhoods.
A report on Army Radio Thursday said that Peretz wrote to the planning commission that he wanted to reexamine the project, because of the “environmental impact” it would have on the Arab neighborhoods. The project was initiated by the Parks Authority, which is anxious to start construction, but as the supervising Minister, Peretz has the last word on what projects are to be developed.
Both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar stated last week that the plan would be discussed by the Planning Board this week.