«Israel» Advances East Al-Quds Project 25 Years after Promising Clinton to Trash It
By Staff, Agencies
Municipal authorities on Wednesday advanced a plan for a “Israeli” neighborhood in East al-Quds [Jerusalem] to be located in an area that was at the center of an international controversy over a quarter of a century ago.
The project, which was given early-stage approval by the so-called Local Planning Committee in the al-Quds municipality, will be located beyond the Green Line, nestled along the southwest side of the largely Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa. But while Arab residents of the latter neighborhood have for decades pleaded with municipal leaders for additional housing, the new, distinctly separate neighborhood named “Givat Shaked”, with its several planned synagogues, appears to be designed for “Israelis”.
Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin also envisioned an “Israeli” neighborhood there and ordered authorities to expropriate 134 acres of the open land near Beit Safafa in April 1995 to set the process forward. But news of the plan sparked immediate international uproar as it was the first such expropriation in East al-Quds in over a decade. It also came against the backdrop of the Oslo Accords, flying in the face of the momentum building for “Israeli”-Palestinian resolution.
A resolution was introduced in the UN Security Council demanding that 'Israel' put off the expropriation. The US, which also condemned the move by Rabin, nevertheless vetoed the resolution.
After initially standing his ground – albeit pledging that the controversial expropriation would be the government’s last – Rabin froze the plan days after the Security Council vote. In the 26-plus years since, no “Israeli” neighborhood was ever built on that land; nor were any other such expropriations carried out in East al-Quds.
Al-Quds expert Daniel Seidemann noted that future efforts to expropriate land in order to expand the “Israeli” Har Homa neighborhood of East al-Quds were shelved as “Israeli” authorities were handcuffed by Rabin’s commitment.
A former official in Rabin’s government involved in the matter told The Times of “Israel” on condition of anonymity that while the US veto in the Security Council was not explicitly offered by Clinton in exchange for a promise by Rabin not to move forward with the controversial project, “it was clear the two were connected.”
Asked for comment on the reemergence of the Beit Safafa area construction plan, a US State Department official referred The Times of “Israel” to remarks made by spokesman Ned Price.
“We continue to believe that it’s critical for ‘Israelis’ and Palestinians to refrain from steps that exacerbate tensions and that otherwise undercut efforts to advance a negotiated ‘two-state’ solution,” Price said Monday.
The new project will rest on an area roughly a third of the size of the neighborhood promoted by Rabin. The al-Quds municipality said in a statement that the Givat Shaked plan is not necessarily designed for a specific demographic.
Monday’s approval is one of the first steps in the process, and the project will still need to be adjudicated in several hearings by the District Planning Committee before construction can begin — a process that often takes months, if not years.
The advancement came just days after the District Planning Committee significantly delayed another controversial housing project in East al-Quds amid blowback from the Biden administration.