Israel advances plans for new settlement in East Jerusalem
Israel is pushing forward plans to establish a new settlement in occupied East Jerusalem, beyond the Green Line and near the Palestinian quarter of Beit Safafa, Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Monday.
Israel's municipal planning and building committee said it was discussing plans for the new settlement, which will be named Givat Shaked. The plan will see the construction of 473 homes, an elementary school, preschools, and synagogues, the report said.
The Palestinian Beit Safafa community, next door, suffers from severe shortages of land for new construction.
"We were very surprised by the plan for Givat Shaked," Ali Ayoub, chairman of Beit Safafa’s neighbourhood administration told the daily.
"We asked why they were advancing a plan for Jews and not Arabs, but unfortunately we didn't get any answers," Ayoub said.
"The mayor promised to designate plots for us to build in Beit Safafa, but it isn't happening. How come residents of every other community can build and only Beit Safafa can’t?"
While the plans for Givat Shaked do not define it as a "Jewish neighbourhood", but according to Aviv Tatarsky, a researcher for the group Ir Amim, there is no doubt about whom it’s meant for.
"First, it's called Givat Shaked rather than Tel al-Luz," Amim told Haaretz, referring to the Arabic name of the neighbourhood, which translates as Almond Hill.
"Second, the plan states that the neighbourhood will be disconnected from existing neighbourhoods. And third, two buildings are marked on the plan as synagogues," Amim added.
"The housing shortage in Beit Safafa-Sharafat is a result of policy."
Over the last 20 years, not a single plan was approved to expand the area for construction in any Palestinian neighbourhood in the city.
Constructions erected by Palestinians are regularly demolished by Israeli forces, who claim that they are built without permits.
Meanwhile, Israeli authorities continue to plan for and build Jewish settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, a move deemed illegal under international law.
More than 200,000 Israeli settlers live in East Jerusalem and nearly 500,000 live in settlements scattered across the occupied West Bank.
Israel's current prime minister, Naftali Bennett, is a strong supporter of settlements and is opposed to Palestinian statehood.
The US administration under Joe Biden has repeatedly criticised settlement construction, saying it hinders the eventual resumption of the peace process, but Israel has continued to advance settlement plans.
There have been no substantive peace talks in more than a decade.