Israel’s Settler Government Seeks to Quietly Take Over East Jerusalem as War Rages in Gaza

Haaretz Editorial Feb 12, 2024

Two days after the Hamas attack, the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee approved a plan for a new Jewish neighbourhood, Kidmat Tzion, adjacent to the Palestinian neighbourhood of Ras al Amud. The proposal’s security annex includes directives for a perimeter fence, patrol routes, armoured vehicles and security cameras with facial recognition.

It has now become evident that it was just the start. Since the October 7 attack, the government has done everything it can to advance the development of Jewish neighbourhoods in the heart of Palestinian East Jerusalem. To do that, it has taken measures never seen since the city was reunited in 1967.

Nir Hasson has revealed that the government is advancing plans for another neighbourhood, the fourth, this one called Nofei Rachel. The Justice Ministry, headed by Yariv Levin, is the key figure in this undertaking.

Since 1967, there was supposed to have been a clear division of East Jerusalem: The government, mainly the Construction and Housing Ministry, built on the unoccupied hills around Palestinian neighbourhoods. That was how Gilo, Pisgat Ze’ev, Ramot and many others were developed.

At the same time, settler organizations, first and foremost Elad and Ateret Cohanim – with the support of the state but independently – sponsored mostly small settlements in the midst of Palestinian neighbourhoods. This is how a Jewish presence was established in the City of David, the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah.

In recent years, and especially in recent months, that division is no longer being honoured. The government operates through several arms, the main one being the Justice Ministry’s Administrator General, which manages Jewish-owned property from before 1947, and the ministry’s Land Registry and Settlement of Rights. These two bodies have been working hand in hand with private companies operated by settlement activists to establish big neighbourhoods, each with hundreds of residential units in the midst of Palestinian neighbourhoods.

To date, there are four of them: Givat Shaked in Beit Safafa, Kidmat Tzion in Ras al Amud, an as-yet-unnamed neighbourhood in Umm Lisun and Nofei Rachel in Umm Tuba.

These settlements are further proof that the current government of Israel puts narrow and short-term politics over the long-term interests of the general public.

In order to please settler organizations and their inflammatory “Jerusalem is ours alone” rhetoric, the government is sacrificing the quality of life of all Jerusalem residents, the remaining political credit the State of Israel has around the world and the chance of a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.