The southeastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa, the construction of which was at the focal point of the dispute between Israel and the United States, is set to be significantly expanded: The Local Committee at the Jerusalem Municipality submitted on Monday a plan to build 1,000 housing units in the neighborhood.
The state-owned land slated for the project is situated between Har Homa and the Arab village of Tzur Bacher, although a wadi separates the Jewish neighborhood from the village.
The municipality’s Planning and Construction Council said the plan was initiated by the Housing Ministry. Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski said the plan serves as just one example of an alternative to the Safdie plan.
The Safdie plan, named after architect Moshe Safdie who planned the project, calls for a major development project, which will include about 20,000 housing units over an area of 26,600 dunams in the hills west of the city, combining most municipalities into one contiguous block.
'Closer to central Bethlehem'
Two weeks ago Lupolianski announced that he decided to suspend the controversial plan.
In March 1994 the plan to build in Har Homa was revealed, and lands were confiscated from Jews and Arabs alike.
The planned housing project is set to be built between Tzur Bacher in the north and Bethlehem in the south.
In addition to Har Homa, the mayor also plans to advance the expansion of Ramat Rachel, Mei Naftuah, New Arnona, Gilo, Givat Hamatos and other neighborhoods.
The plans to build Har Homa were faced with staunch opposition. When the Benjamin-Netanyahu-led government decided in 1997 to begin construction south of Jerusalem, then-Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat suspended negotiations with Israel, and the added US pressure postponed the plan’s implementation; however, thousands of housing units have been erected in the neighborhood since then.
The neighborhood is located at the southernmost tip of a large area that was confiscated in 1967, and while it is under Jerusalem Municipality jurisdiction, the neighborhood is closer to central Bethlehem.
Some of Har Homa’s 2,000 dunams were confiscated from nearby Beit Sahur, which is under Palestinian Authority control, and the Palestinians are protesting the continued construction in the area to this day.