The Israeli Master Plan: Jerusalem 2000

“What is happening in Jerusalem goes beyond security needs, and reflects the essence of the original Zionist dream: maximum territory, minimum Arabs." -Israeli historian Tom Segev

As the Apartheid separation Wall’s slabs were rising around occupied East Jerusalem to hack it off from the rest of Palestine in the name of “security,” the Israeli municipality in West Jerusalem disclosed a municipal Master Plan Jerusalem 2000 for “United Jerusalem” on September 14, 2004.

The goal of Jerusalem 2000, as pronounced in the executive summary of the plan is “to secure an absolute Jewish majority in the city by creating a framework to proceed with the development of the city of Jerusalem as a capital for the “Jewish” state and a seat for its government, and, “to achieve a long term goal which reflects the future vision for the city as conceived by the city’s ‘fathers.’” I shall get back to this vision later.

But first, a historical note should be inserted here to provide a context for the reader. Following the 1967 war, the Israeli Knesset on 27 June 1967 approved an amendment to the Law and Administration Ordinance as follows: “The jurisdiction and administration of the State shall extend to any area in the land of Israel designated by the government by order.” A second amendment to the Municipalities Ordinance Law, allowed the Minister to enlarge by proclamation the area of the municipality by inclusion of an area designated by order. Concurrently, an Israeli ministerial committee was formed in 1967, and its first decision was to declare a 76:24 demographic ratio of Jews to Palestinians in the city.

Despite all the United Nations’ resolutions on the illegality of the Israeli occupation’s actions in Jerusalem since 1967, the Israeli government proceeded to redraw the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem to include “Jordanian” Jerusalem and land adjacent to it in the West Bank. This is the area which came to be known as East Jerusalem. Some 70,000 dunams (17,500 acres) owned exclusively by Palestinians, including the lands of 28 villages (excluding its inhabitants) were annexed de facto to Israel. Since then, the government of Israel and the Israeli municipality have been systematically expropriating land and confining Palestinians to ever smaller areas in East Jerusalem so that today only 7,000 dunams, or 10% of the land, are used by its Palestinian owners. Thirty five percent of this land was immediately confiscated by Israel for public purposes which were not disclosed, and was turned into Jewish settlements. 58% of land use was frozen by the municipality’s spot planning and zoning policy. (The spot zoning policy was the alternative for developing a policy statement which would translate into a planning map and regulations for the “United City.” Such a policy statement could have brought about international embarrassment for Israel.) As a result, 23% remained unplanned areas; 17% remained in the planning process; 25% was planned (of which only 7.3% was allocated for residential construction in East Jerusalem) and 14% of this land was used for settlement roads.

While Israeli settlements were proliferating, no new Palestinian neighbourhood has been planned since 1967. All had existed before the war, but their size has been reduced by spot zoning plans. Through spot zoning schemes, all adjacent land surrounding Palestinian built-up areas is designated as green zones or open areas where Palestinian construction is strictly prohibited. In reality, almost none of the land designated for open spaces in East Jerusalem’s suburbs is planted; on the ground, it is beige rather than green. But a “forested” green area in East Jerusalem may become a “white area” when a plan for a Jewish settlement is finalized. Examples: Jabal Abu Ghneim or Har Homa in Im Tuba and Reshes Shoafat in Shu’fat. Green and open spaces encircle all Palestinian built-up areas to prevent them from expanding. Such spaces have also been designated inside these areas, even to land slots where houses presently stand. An example is the Bustan area in Silwan.

The foregoing register points to a deliberate Israeli policy of expropriations and land use denial for the Palestinians of occupied East Jerusalem. Building licenses denial for the Palestinians, even within their built-up areas, is the zenith of this policy. The result is the presence today of some 15,000 unlicensed Palestinian housing units, 9,000 of which are threatened with demolition by the Israeli municipality and the Israeli Ministry of Interior. Over 2,000 homes have been demolished in East Jerusalem between 1967 and 2000, including several religious and historic sites in the historic Moroccan Quarter in the Old City. This policy has been accelerated since. In 2004 alone, 152 homes were demolished in East Jerusalem.

Needless to say, the Israeli government did not sponsor housing projects for the Palestinians. There is one exception in Beit Hanina: the Nusseibeh project, which was initiated to encourage poor Palestinian families to sell the right to their houses in the Old City in exchange for a small apartment in Beit Hanina.

Finally, in the Old City planning was confined to the Jewish Quarter that was built in the place of the Moroccan Quarter which was raised to the ground immediately after the war in 1967. No plans have been drawn for other parts (luckily). But the Master Plan does include ideas to “modernize” the Old City.

Main Features of Jerusalem 2000

This is the first time that Israel publishes a comprehensive town planning scheme for “United Jerusalem.” It was encouraged by muffled international responses regarding the illegality of Israeli expansion and domination policies in the entire occupied territories including East Jerusalem, and more so by the United States’ unconditional backing.

In the executive summary of Jerusalem 2000, the planning teams at the Israeli municipality profess that they prepared it mainly to alert the government of Israel that the number of Palestinians in the city, if left to their present growth rate, will reach 40% of population in 2020, which will undermine the government’s decision to maintain an approximate 70:30 Jews to Palestinians ratio. The plan urges the government of Israel to interfere, to chart a “new” direction for development in the city to maintain its policy regarding this ratio. The plan alleges that its purpose is to help the government to sustain this policy. On the surface it looks like the planners are attentive to their government’s performance profile. But their plan points to an implicit policy of gradual banishment of Palestinians from the city. This could be detected from some of their own “slip ups.” For instance, the plan’s only constant for the Palestinians are the housing units projected for their growth needs inside their built-up areas. However, in their tabulated entries the Israeli planners ignore the 15,000 illegal housing units. This suggests that the allocations mentioned in the plan may have been used up already. In the same tables there are figures that do not add up.

The planners admit that Palestinians have a housing shortage. Instead of coming up with alternatives to solve this subsistence problem, they capitalize on the shortage by proposing 100% usage of land in Palestinian built-up areas. Then, in another part of the plan they go as far as accusing Palestinians of scheming. They state that Palestinians build houses not out of need but for political ends. This deliberate disdain of Palestinian needs is aggravated by the planners’ total disregard for Palestinian socio-economic development needs until 2020. The plan defers all these development needs to further study and examination. While the plan fails to list specific development projects for the Palestinians, it expands on the projects intended for the Jews: high tech institutions, university campuses, and hospitals, to name a few.

The plan also states that “the lack of land partition into blocks and plots, excluding the Jewish Quarter, makes it harder to assert ownership rights.” In reality, ownership documents for property in the Old City have the plot and block marked clearly at the top, even on some Israeli registration documents post 1967.

It does not take much to add one to one. The Palestinian land which was frozen by previous planning and zoning schemes as green and open spaces, and which amounts to 44% (including 6% which was assigned for infrastructure and services and which remained under municipal control) could become accessible for use by the Israeli municipality for Jewish settlement and Jewish public concerns. Unlike the Israeli government, the Israeli municipality can expropriate land for public use on the basis of a town planning scheme only. The municipality will be able to use this strategic land reserve for Jewish settlement and other 2020-bound Jewish development projects in occupied East Jerusalem. In fact, the plan confirms this assumption by indicating that housing expansion for Jews will be intensified in the south and north and reduced in the west and centre. For instance 30,000 housing units are planned for Jews in occupied East Jerusalem around Jabal Abu Ghneim. Others are planned around Pisgat Zeev.

It is very important to mention that the person in charge of the Israeli National Parks’ Authority in East Jerusalem is the leader of EL AD, a settler group. The settlers’ group spearheaded settlement inside Palestinian built-up areas, in areas designated as ‘green,’ as in the case in Karm El-Mufti in Sheikh Jarrah.

If Approved

The Master Plan Jerusalem 2000 will phase out the Palestinian communal entity totally as it alienates Palestinian areas from each other and alienates these areas from a communal centre of life in and around the Old City and appends these areas increasingly to West Jerusalem. It will turn the Palestinian area into impoverished, densely populated slums whose inhabitants rely on West Jerusalem for jobs.

The Vision and Mission

In Theodor Herzl’s own diary he declared that while Jerusalem was a majestic city it was also in dire need of modernization. “The musty deposits of two thousands years of inhumanity, intolerance, and foulness lie in reeking alleys. The one man who has been present here all this while, the lovable dreamer of Nazareth, has done nothing but help increase the hate. If Jerusalem is ever ours, and if I were still able to do anything about it, I would begin by cleaning it up. I would clear out everything that is not sacred, set up workers’ houses beyond the city, empty and tear down the filthy rat-holes, burn all the non-sacred ruins, and put the bazaars elsewhere. Then, retaining as much of the old architectural style as possible, I would build an airy, comfortable, properly sewered, brand new city around the Holy Places.”

He also dreamt of Jerusalem as a 20th century city with modern neighbourhoods and electric lines and tree-lined boulevards in other parts of his diary. The Old City section of the Master Plan unfortunately tries to project the vision of the Father into reality as it does mention the “demolition of houses which have no value for renovation.” And it does question Palestinian property ownership.

The Master Plan could also realize a comment that Moshe Dayan made back in the early ’70s when he was responsible for the occupied territories. He said to his cabinet colleagues that, “we should tell the Palestinians that we have no solution for you, that you will live like dogs, and whoever will leave will leave, and we’ll see where that leads.”

The Master Plan is in the last stages of formal approvals by the Israeli government authorities. Once approved, it will be deposited for public appeals for 60 days. The whole document has been translated into Arabic. It is being translated into English now. A web page has been set up for information: coalitionforjerusalem.blogspot.com.

Amal Nashashibi is the publicity advisor for the Coalition for Jerusalem, a league of religious dignitaries, political factions, civil society organizations and individuals based in Jerusalem. It is a non-violent, direct action group formed in 2004 to oppose the Israeli Government’s arbitrary measures to alter the status of East Jerusalem in violation of international legitimacy and human rights conventions, and to reaffirm that East Jerusalem is the capital of the future Palestinian State.

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