Blocking Mideast Peace
Jerusalem Municipality Planning Another Jewish Settlement In Abu-Dis. The Solution: Irving Moskowitz
by Eyal Hareuveni
Originally published 03 January 1997
in Kol HaIr

According to initial planning, 250 units will be constructed in the settlement on 82 dunam [=20.5 acres], and it will extend beyond the Jerusalem city limits. The architect of the neighborhood also planned the settlement in Ras al-Amud for the patron of the extremist right, Irving Moskowitz, who is behind this initiative as well.

On Tuesday, the Jerusalem City Council approved the allocation of 298,000 shekel [=$92,000] for planning a Jewish settlement in abu-Dis on land owned by Jews adjoining the planned route of the eastern ring road. The area of the planned settlement is 82 dunam [=20.5 acres], of which 62 dunam [=15.5 acres] are within the city limits. According to the plan, some 250 units can be built on this site. In the past, Dr. Irving Moskowitz, the patron of the settlers' associations Ateret Cohanim and Elad, tried to take control of these lands through a bid issued by Amram Blum, former head of the Bureau of State Bequests. After publication of the affair in Kol Ha'Ir and the intervention of the Ir Shalem association, which filed an appeal to the High Court of Justice, the bid was disqualified by the Attorney General, Michael Ben-Yair, and it was agreed then that the lands would be managed by the Bureau of State Bequests at least until January 1997. Now the Municipality is trying to revive Moskowitz's initiative using public funds.

Only a month ago, another plan that Moskowitz pushed was approved for construction of a 132-unit Jewish neighborhood in the Ras al-Amud section, a plan that was frozen during four years of Labor Party rule. Following approval of this plan, the governments of the United States, Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority condemned the Israeli settlement policy. At the time, security people warned of renewed violence in the territories that would be even more serious than what had happened in September following the opening of the tunnel. By the way, at the opening ceremony of the tunnel, Moskowitz was present as an honorary guest of Mayor Ehud Olmert.

The renewed initiative in abu-Dis was brought for approval to the council members, but the plan was not presented in detail and they were told only that the money would be allocated "to plan construction of a city in abu-Dis". Only Arnon Yekutieli, head of the Meretz faction in the council, opposed approval of the plan, noting that the area is outside the city limits and constitutes "Palestinian Jerusalem". Olmert replied that "The area is within the city limits. This is a residential project in an unsettled area". The architect chosen to plan the settlement is Dan Yizraeli, who planned for Moskowitz the Jewish neighborhood in Ras al-Amud, and also planned for the city the expansion of the Beit Orot Yeshiva on land owned by Moskowitz.

Yesterday, Danny Seidmann from the Ir Shalem association approached Attorney General Michael Ben-Yair in a demand to open an investigation regarding "the preferential status given to Moskowitz by the city of Jerusalem and Olmert". Seidmann claims that planning of the neighborhood by the city was done without coordination with the Bureau of State Bequests, and the city is systematically subjugating the interests of the residents of East Jerusalem to the interest of the foreigner Moskowitz. "How could a public institution, the municipality, turn over the planning of such a sensitive area to a planner who is functioning in this area on behalf of a private interest, Moskowitz, completely blurring the public interest for which the municipality is responsible and the sectoral, ideological interest of Moskowitz?" writes Seidmann.

And more about the connection between the American patron of settlements and the Israeli planner: About eight months ago, in the names of Moskowitz and Yoav Doga, former assistant to Housing Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Yizraeli submitted objections to the planned eastern ring road, claiming that the route encroaches upon property owned by them in abu-Dis.

In this objection, Yizraeli noted that he was planning a project "known as the lands owned by Jews in abu-Dis" that is 82 dunam large, of which 62 dunam are within the city limits. Moskowitz holds only 1,357 sq. m. of this area, and Doga about 4.5 dunams [=1.125 acres].

Doga said that he authorized Yizraeli to handle the property owned by his family, but he did not know that a Jewish neighborhood was being planned there. "In my ideology, I oppose a Jewish neighborhood in abu-Dis. I don't mind selling the land if I am compensated", said Doga.

In this same objection, Yizraeli cites additional adjacent property that is owned by Jews, which could be added to the future settlement. "Contiguous to this project", he writes, "is Jewish property outside the city limits of an estimated 45 dunam [11.25 acres] and lands that are not contiguous (but very near) with an estimated 100 dunam [25 acres].

Yizraeli demands that a retaining wall be constructed as acoustic protection from the ring road, which would reduce the land appropriation from 17 to 7 dunam [4.25 to 1.75 dunam]. The local committee submitted its decision to the district committee together with this objection and the objections of all the other Jewish property owners in the route of the road, some of whom are represented by the Bureau of State Bequests. The hearing about the objections in the district committee has been delayed already for more than half a year.

Copyright 1997, Kol Ha'Ir. All rights reserved. For education and discussion only. Not for commercial use.

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