The Israeli Ministry of Housing announced Tuesday that it plans to construct thousands of new Israeli settlement units in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Kafr Aqab, in violation of international law and all past signed peace agreements, and even violating the Trump-Kushner Plan, which had designated the neighborhood as part of the fast-shrinking Palestinian territory.
The Trump-Kushner ‘Deal of the Century’ had considered Kafr Aqab as one of the few Palestinian areas to be left under Palestinian control. But the Israeli Ministry of Housing has other plans for the land in question, including displacing the existing Palestinian population and replacing them with Jewish-only settlements.
According to the Israeli paper Haaretz, the new settlement “will be built on the lands of Qalandia Airport, up to the separation wall, so that the wall separates the new settlement neighborhood and Palestinian areas in the Jerusalem area, such as Kafr Aqab.”
The plan for the new settlement includes about 1,200 acres, and will include the construction of 6 to 9 thousand housing units, with shopping centers comprising an additional 300,000 square meters.
The Israeli Ministry of Housing claims that the land is owned by the state and the National Fund for Israel, but acknowledges that a large proportion of the land is owned by individual Palestinian owners.
According to the plan, ownership will be redistributed in the area before the licenses are issued, without the consent of the landowners.
The settlement plan includes lands at the airport “Atarot” (Qalandia), which was closed by the Israeli authorities when the Second Intifada broke out in September 2000.
Haaretz pointed out that the settlement plan was drawn up several years ago, and it was frozen on more than one occasion due to international political pressure rejecting settlement in the occupied territories in 1967.
This included opposition from the previous American administration, headed by Barack Obama at the time, who opposed settlement expansion in Jerusalem.
According to Haaretz, “the Trump peace plan’s chapter on Jerusalem includes a section titled ‘Special Tourist Area.’The plan specifies that ‘The State of Israel should allow for the development by the State of Palestine of a special tourism zone in Atarot, in a specific area to be agreed upon by the parties.’
“This zone, according to the peace plan, ‘should be a world class tourist zone that should support Muslim tourism to Jerusalem and its holy sites,’ and would include restaurants, shops, hotels, cultural centers, and other tourism facilities, along with ‘state-of-the-art public transportation that provides easy access to and from the holy sites.’”
But with this announcement from the Israeli Housing Ministry, it seems that Israeli officials are already thwarting the proposal for a Palestinian tourist area in Atarot, by pre-emptively constructing a colonial settlement that encompasses the entire neighborhood around Atarot and displaces the thousands of Palestinian residents who live there.
According to Middle East Eye, 60,000 residents have kept their Jerusalem ID cards – and have kept paying taxes – they have stopped receiving most services from the municipality .
And the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem reports, “Israeli policy in East Jerusalem is geared toward pressuring Palestinians to leave, thereby shaping a geographical and demographic reality that would thwart any future attempt to challenge Israeli sovereignty there. Palestinians who do leave East Jerusalem, due to this policy or for other reasons, risk losing their permanent residency and the attendant social benefits. Since 1967, Israel has revoked the permanent residency of some 14,500 Palestinians from East Jerusalem under such circumstances.”