Deliberately Planned: A Policy to Thwart Planning in the Palestinian Neighborhoods of Jerusalem

“Of course the authorities demolish their homes, because they build illegally.” This is how most Israelis respond when they hear about the demolition of homes, whether it happens in a Bedouin village in the Negev, in Qalansuwa in central Israel, or in East Jerusalem. This report examines three plans in East Jerusalem that reflect the efforts made by Palestinian residents to eventually build legally and eliminate the threat of demolition. Our examination of the obstacle course faced by these plans shows that the Israeli authorities do everything within their power to delay the process and ultimately thwart any detailed plan of significant scale, effectively preventing lawful construction by Palestinians. In most cases, a Palestinian family that tries to build a home in East Jerusalem is required to run from one office to the next, spend hundreds of thousands of shekels of its own money on planning, and then expend even more to submit an application for a building permit. After confronting all of these barriers, the family may or may not be granted permission to build a home. Families must deal with this process while coping with the daily threat of home demolition and paying heavy fines while under threat. Like anyone else, they would prefer to build legally but are prohibited due to the suppression of their planning rights.

Recently, there has been a sharp increase in the number of home demolitions in East Jerusalem, as in Arab communities within the Green Line and in the Occupied Territories. It is important to emphasize in this context that construction takes place without permits as a direct consequence of plans that do not enable approval of permits on a scale appropriate to community needs. Plans prepared for the Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem attest to politically motivated discrimination in line with the state’s overriding policy objective of maintaining the demographic balance in the city. more