On 11 October, a new plan for the construction of 2,610 housing units in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Hamatos was deposited for public review. This plan comes to replace a former one, deposited three years ago, to build 4,000 housing units.
Givat Hamatos (marked in the square). Map by the AIC based on maps by OCHA
Givat Hamatos is a 170 dunam trailer park in southern East Jerusalem built in 1991 between the settlements of Gilo and Har Homa on the lands of the Palestinian village of Beit Safafa. The trailer park was constructed in response to the growing housing protests in the disempowered neighbourhoods of West Jerusalem, and later was populated primarily by Ethiopian immigrants. Today there are in 25 trailers in the park.
The construction plan for Givat Hamatos, as proposed by the Jerusalem Municipality, will require the expropriation of lands belonging to residents of the nearby Palestinian village of Beit Safafa. Those lands are the only place remaining for development of the Palestinian village.
In addition, the plans would also create a barrier between Beit Safafa and the Bethlehem urban area, further isolating the former.
In 2007 the Israeli government caved in to pressures by environmental activists and cancelled the “Sfadia plan.” This was a plan to expand the municipal area of Jerusalem by 26,000 dunams and to build 22,000 housing units on forested areas to the West of the city.
As partial compensation for cancelling the Sfadia plan, the Jerusalem Municipality decided to build a full-scale neighbourhood on the Givat Hamatos trailer park. In addition, the Jerusalem Municipality approved new construction plans in other East Jerusalem settlements, including Har Homa and Pisgat Zeev.
While originally out of the 4,000 housing units to be built on Givat Hamatos, 1,800 units were supposed to be allocated to Palestinian residents of Beit Safafa. This, however, no longer appears in the new plan
The construction plan for Givat Hamatos was deposited for public review on 11 October 2011. After a 60-day objection period and a hearing of any possible objections, the plan can be approved. Following approval there might be appeals submitted to court that could take several additional months. Once approved, construction can commence.
(www.alternativenews.org / 17.10.2011)