Monday, 8 May 2000


Jerusalem Settlement Update Report




Palestinian anxieties over the current peace process continue to escalate as increased Israeli settlement activity and an unprecedented amount of by pass road construction radically alter the landscape of Israeli occupied East  Jerusalem.   Even while Israel engages in framework agreements over the final status of Jerusalem, settlement activity deep within Palestinian communities and along the outer ring of Israeli occupied East Jerusalem continue to territorially sever Jerusalem from the West Bank and fragment Palestinian communities. 


Israeli settlement activity is not only a flagrant violation of international law but is the central Israeli policy that has consistently undermined all aspects of the peace process.  As Israeli settlement activity and by pass road construction continue, the chances for peace steadily erode.  The following is an overview of some of the most significant settlement activity in Jerusalem.


New Israeli Settlement Activity


Jabal Abu Ghneim


Heavy construction on the Israeli settlement atop Jabal Abu Ghneim ("Har Homa") is quickly making the new settlement a reality with several apartment buildings already near completion.   On 12-11-1998, Ha'aretz reported that the 1,025 living units were approved by the West Jerusalem Municipality for construction as the first stage in the creation of the new settlement.  The approved master plan for the "Har Homa" settlement includes the construction of 6,500 living units.


The settlement on Jabal Abu Ghneim, near Bethlehem, is being built on one of the last open areas along the southern boundaries of Occupied East Jerusalem.  The new settlement closes the outer ring of ilegal Israeli settlements by connecting with other settlements via the new "Ring Road".


Ras Al-Amud


Construction on the Israeli settlement outpost in Ras Al-Amud continues to heighten tensions in Jerusalem, creating a situation akin to that in Israeli Occupied Hebron (H2).  The Ras Al-Amud settlement was approved under Prime Minister Ehud Barak on 13 January 1999 and calls for the construction of 132 living units, exclusively for Jewish settlers, on 14.7 dunums of land. The settlement is another project of Florida business man Irving Moskowitz and the Ateret Cohanim (Crown of Priests) settler group.


Strategically, the new settlement will aid in preventing Palestinian territorial continuity in Jerusalem.  The contiguity between the Ras Al-Amud settlement, the expanded Jewish cemetary on the Mount of Olives, the expanded Jewish Quarter in the Old City and the Israeli settlements in Silwan have formed an inner ring around the Old City, separating Palestinian population areas in the east from other Palestinian communities inside Jerusalem.  The Ras Al Amud settlement also lies alongside the main artery used by Palestinians to enter Jerusalem from the east, including access for Palestinians from Abu Dis, Azzeria and Anata.


Sheikh Jarrah


On April 27, a group of Israeli extremists, primarily from the Moledet Party, forcibly entered a privately owned cave in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, causing riots that resulted in numerous arrests and injuries.  One of the injured was Member of the Executive Committee of the PLO Mr. Faisal Husseini who was later hospitalized.   This action occurred just after Mr. Husseini received the commitment of Israeli Secrurity Minister Shlomo Ben Ami that the settlers would not be able to access the site.


The settlers, led by Knesset Member Benny Elon, aim to seize the cave by declaring it a Jewish religious site and connect it with existing settlements (currently four Palestinian houses). If the settlers are successful, the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah would become a formidable Israeli settlement in the heart of Arab East Jerusalem.


Valid property rights to the cave are carried by the Abu Jibne family who recently leased the land to a Palestinian rental car agency for the purpose of establishing a parking lot.  However, despite the land claim, the settlers received a permit from the Israeli courts to enter the site on April 27 and arrived the same day accompanied by Israeli soldiers and police.  The permit of the settlers expired on May 1 and will not be re-issued until a final settlement is reached by Israeli courts on whether the property should be declared a religious site.  The next court hearing is on May 18. 


As Arab East Jerusalem is occupied territory under international law and as Palestinian land claims, including numerous Muslim and Christian religious sites, to some 70% of West Jerusalem have not been addressed, it is the Palestinian view that the status of the cave is primarily a political issue and not one that can be addressed by Israeli law or through Israeli courts.


Ma'aleh Adumim


The largest Israeli settlement, Ma'aleh Adumim, continues to expand into the 10,240 dunums of confiscated land alloted to the settlement on 4 October 1999 as part of the E1 plan.[1]  On 28 April 2000, tenders for the construction of 174 living units were approved by the Israeli Housing Ministry as the first stage in the planned construction of 3,500 new living units for the illegal settlement.


The expansion of Ma'aleh Adumim will raise the population of the settlement over its current 26,000 inhabitants and establish geographic contiguity between this eastern settlement and the other north-eastern settlements of Pisgat Ze’ev, Pisgat Omer, Neve Ya'akov and French Hill.  The planning area of Ma'aleh Adumim now covers 47 square kilometers, only four less than Tel Aviv.


The Old City of Jerusalem


Israeli settlement activity in the Old City of Jerusalem has led to a process of militarization in the historic city.  To date 700 stone buildings were expropriated to expand the Jewish Quarter and now at least 63 other buildings are controlled by settlers, the largest of which being the Christian Waqf property of St. John's Hospice.[2]  Ha'aretz reported that over 1,000 settlers now live outside the expanded Jewish Quarter and the number continues to grow.[3]


The presence of the settlers causes frequent clashes in the Old City and the Israelis have now installed over 400 security cameras,[4] operate five police stations, and spend upwards from NIS14 million to fund the private security companies of the settlers.[5] 



Three New Israeli Settlements in Jerusalem


Three new illegal Israeli settlements are being established in and around Occupied Jerusalem: two in south west Jerusalem and one in the east.   The following is a synapsis of the evolving new settlements.


i)              Settlement in Abu Dis


Ehud Olmert recently gave orders to speed up submission of plans to build a new settlement on 70 dunums of land in Abu Dis.[6]  The new settlement is called Kidmat Zion and calls for the construction of 350 housing units. 


The new plan is being submitted in order to prevent Palestinian territorial continuity in the areas east of Jerusalem and as MK Benny Elon stated recently in the Jerusalem Post, to ensure Jewish land contiguity that will link Ir David, Ras al-Amud, and Abu Dis. [7]


ii)            Ganni Bitar ("West Gilo")


On March 10, 2000, Kol Ha'ir reported that Israeli settler groups intended to establish a new settlement on the south western slopes of Beit Jala on land belonging to the El Walleje Village.  According to Kol Ha'ir the project aims to establish 2000 housing units on 203 dunums of confiscated land.  This section of El Walleje was declared a "Green Area" after the Israeli occupation in 1967, effectively prohibiting Palestinian building in that area.  Currently, 44% of Occupied East Jerusalem is classified as "Green Area." El Walleje, which lies partially in Municipal Jerusalem but whose residents do not have Jerusalem ID cards, continues to be routinely subjected to home demolition.


Special Note:  Contrary to information published in Ha'aretz (16/03/2000), the El Walleje families did not sell their property to Israelis.  This was misinformation and the families are currently in court trying to clear their names.


iii)          "Har Gilo #2"


Another new Israeli settlement is currently under construction on property confiscated from Beit Jala.  This property lies close to the existing illegal settlement of Har Gilo which was itself established soon after the occupation and currently contains 80 Israeli families as well as a training ground for the IDF. 


On 2 June 1999, master plan #401/2/1 for the new settlement was approved for construction.  The plan calls for the confiscation of 170 dunums of land belonging to El Walleje  and will establish 250 new housing units.



By-Pass Roads


i)              The Jerusalem "Ring Road"


The Israeli Government is currently realizing one of its most aggressive plans to sever Jerusalem from the West Bank.  The Jerusalem "Ring Road" (project # 4588) will connect Israeli settlements in the north with those of the south form a noose around Jerusalem fragmenting numerous Palestinian communities and providing settlers with roads free of Palestinian populated areas.


The "Ring Road" connects Jabal Abu Ghneim in the south with Ma'aleh Adumim in the East and ends at the already existing by-pass road No. 45 which carries on to the northern settlements.  The "Ring Road" cuts through the Palestinian areas of Sur Baher, Al Sawahreh, Al Sharquieh, Abu Dis, Al Ezariyeh, Al Issawiyeh and Anata and requires the construction of two tunnels through the Mt. Of Olives as well as a 440 meter long, 115 meter high bridge over Wadi Al Nar (Kidron Valley).  The new road will entail the confiscation of 1,070 dunums of Palestinian property. 


ii)            Road No. 16


On August 9, 1998, the Israeli authorities approved master plan #4752 for Road No. 16.  Currently under construction, this road provides a short cut route to connect the illegal settlements of Ramat Ashkol with Ma’ale Adumim and other Israeli settlements in the east.  Road No. 16 will be a 2.8 k.m., two-lane tunnel road that goes through the Mount of Olives and under the Hebrew University.  The road will be built on 52 dunums of Palestinian property.



** Unless otherwise indicated, the above is a compilation of information from the Orient House - Maps and Water Center and various Orient House Press Releases.  For more information please contact the Orient House.

[1] Though the expansion was approved by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens, final approval for the settlement was given by the Israeli High Court.  The High Court decision concerned land claims from Palestinians in Abu Dis and 'Azeriya. On behalf of the State of Israel, Attn. Malchiel Blass argued that the expansion was politically motivated and could not be judged in the courts.

[2] St. John's Hospice, near the Church of the Sepulcher, is owned by the Greek Orthodox Church but is tenanted by over 100 Jewish settlers.  The settler takeover caused the Churches in Palestine to close their doors for the first time in centuries.

[3] Ha'aretz, 5 May 1998.

[4] The Jerusalem Post, January 10, 2000.

[5] Gaza Al-Hayah al-Jiddah, 8 January 1999. 

[6] The Jerusalem Post, May 8, 2000.

[7] The Jerusalem Post, May 8, 2000.