Arab neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem
Arab neighborhoods in eastern JerusalemFlash 90

The Jerusalem Municipality's Planning Committee approved a building project giving 2,200 new housing units to Arab residents of the Al-Sawahira Al-Gharbiyya neighborhood, located near the East Talpiyot, in a decision critics warn will have a disastrous effect on the capital.

This marks the first time that an Arab building project of this scale has been approved in Jerusalem, in a move that is seen as encouraging rampant illegal Arab construction - Jerusalem Councilman Aryeh King revealed Sunday that 50 Arab housing units are built illegally in the city every month, and not a single illegal Arab building has been demolished in the last three months.

Most critically, the project has been slammed for creating an unbroken chain of Arab neighborhoods stretching from the north to the south in the eastern part of the city, threatening to disrupt the demographic balance in eastern Jerusalem which houses 200,000 Jews and 230,000 Arabs.

The vote occurred after Jerusalem Councilman and former mayoral candidate Moshe Leon demanded a repeat vote on the plans which Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat had approved earlier in the month.

Leon was the only member of the Planning Committee to oppose the project that passed 11-1, after all of the hareidi parties left the hall so as not to help overturn the vote. The very moment of the fateful committee vote can be seen here (in Hebrew):

Leon's call for a return vote could have potentially cancelled the project if the hareidi parties had gotten on board.

The hareidi councilmen left the hall before the renowned hareidi rabbis Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky and Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl spoke, calling on them to oppose the project.

The latest vote is part of a recent spree of Arab building by Barkat, as exposed by King on Sunday.

King began by detailing how Barkat pressured through the Al-Sawahira project on September 3, a move which led King to be dismissed by Barkat from his coalition posts after petitioning the project. Due to being dismissed from the posts, King was not present at the vote Thursday.

The councilman went on to numerate at least 20 other Arab building projects on the docket, as well as a proposal on a Baptist prayer and study house adjacent to King David's Tomb.

"Barkat together with the Israeli government is continuing to lead to the de facto division of Jerusalem," warned King.

In response, King tried to gain hareidi support in making an unofficial coalition to overturn the Al-Sawahira project. As part of that push, he met with Rabbi Shalom Cohen, head of the Shas party Council of Torah Sages, on Monday.

"It seems that now everything depends on the hareidi parties who together with Aryeh King, (Deputy Mayor Dov) Kalmanovich, Leon and Shas will reach the needed majority to reject the Al-Sawahira project," said King at the time, speaking about the vote which passed Thursday due to the absence of the hareidi parties.

Given the fact that Leon was the only member to oppose the vote, it would appear that Kalmanovich of the Jewish Home party voted for the Arab building project. After being dismissed by Barkat, King noted that Economics Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) reportedly pressed Kalmanovich to vote for the project the first time around.