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Last update - 09:08 10/05/2007
Committee approves construction of three new Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem
By Meron Rappaport, Haaretz Correspondent
The Jerusalem's Planning and Construction Committee has approved a plan to build three new Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.
According to the committee's chairman, Deputy Mayor Yehoshua Pollak, the plan is intended to create continuity between Jerusalem and the Etzion settlement bloc south of the city, and between Jerusalem and the Beit-El area settlements north of the city.
The committee approved the plan roughly 10 days ago. The decision states that due to the National Planning and Construction Committee's decision to reject the Safdie Plan for expanding Jerusalem westward, "the committee sees fit to announce its intention to change the district outline plan in order to allow construction in additional areas of the city: Walaja, Givat Alona, the Atarot airport area, and more."
The Walaja area is in southwestern Jerusalem, and consists primarily of territory annexed from the West Bank following the Six Day War. Construction in Walaja would create continuity between the Gilo and Malha neighborhoods of the capital and Beitar Ilit and the Etzion bloc. Some of the land in the area is owned by Jewish entrepreneurs, some is defined as state land, and some is defined as being in absentee ownership.
Pollak told Haaretz that up to 10,000 housing units can be built in the area. "If you strengthen Walaja, you strengthen the connection with the Etzion bloc through the tunnel road," said Pollak. Government sources said the proposed neighborhood will in all likelihood be ultra-Orthodox, as the Jewish landowners in the area have already contacted ultra-Orthodox organizations.
The Jerusalem committee's decision will be sent to the planning authority that approves the Jerusalem outline plan for further examination. The authorization process is a long one, as in addition to the local committee and the district planning and construction committee's approval, the plan must also be approved by the National Planning and Construction Committee because some of the areas are not currently designated for construction.
A government source said the plan is problematic, and not just from a political standpoint, because it would prevent the construction of a Jerusalem airport on the one hand, and create an ultra-Orthodox bloc in the southern part of the city on the other. The ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods are currently concentrated in the northern part of the city.