187,000 e. J'lem Jewish homes planned
Despite immense international pressure to halt Jewish construction in east Jerusalem and in all areas over the Green Line, Israel Land Fund founder Aryeh King on Sunday presented a plan that would see nearly 200,000 new housing units created there, Jpost reported.
Speaking at a conference at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center to discuss future development initiatives in the capital, King described a plan that would use privately owned land and property belonging to the Jewish National Fund to provide roughly 187,000 new homes in east Jerusalem, E-1 (between Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim) and a chain of territory extending from Ramallah to Bethlehem.
"If Jerusalem doesn't expand, and expand eastward, it will become the Gaza Strip," King said.
Using a blown-up map of the city and its surrounding areas, King showed the audience where hundreds of dunams of land outside the northern Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood could contain roughly 12,000new housing units.
Around the southern Gilo neighborhood, King said, "there is enough similar land to build 60,000 units."
"There are 800 dunams [80 hectares] in E-1, owned by a wealthy, Jewish philanthropist, that could prove room enough for 100,000 housing units," King said. "The potential is enormous."
King's vision faces a number of obstacles, among them the area's large Palestinian population, who claim the territory for a future Palestinian state.
While King stressed that much of the land was "empty and unused" property, redrawing Jerusalem's municipal boundaries to include such areas would drastically affect the city's demographics, though he didn't seem perturbed.
"I'm ready and willing to bring 200,000 [additional] Arabs into [a wider municipal boundary of] Jerusalem," King told the audience. "As long as there are 800,000 Jews that come with them."
Another problem is the current freeze on Jewish housing starts in Judea and Samaria, and the de facto building freeze in east Jerusalem, which the city's politicians have been hard-pressed to acknowledge over recent weeks.
Ever since the approval of 1,600 new housing units in Ramat Shlomo was announced during US Vice President Joe Biden's visit in March, sparking a diplomatic row with Washington over construction even within Jerusalem, all government bodies dealing with such building plans have either refrained from meeting or addressed only minor projects.
While King's plan allows for some leeway in this area, as much of the property in question is privately owned and within the Jerusalem municipal boundaries - any projects outside those boundaries and over the Green Line would need Defense Ministry approval.
"The state will eventually have to become involved," King acknowledged on Sunday. "But the fact remains, Jerusalem must grow, and these are prime areas for it to grow into."