Date Set for Advancement of New Atarot Settlement in East Jerusalem

8 August 2021
As published last week, the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee scheduled December 6th as the date for a discussion of the detailed outline plan for Atarot (TPS 764936). The plan’s scope is extensive, containing 9,000 housing units as well as hotels, commercial areas etc. on an area of 1,243 dunams. The plan was initiated by the Israeli Ministry of Housing whose minister is Ze'ev Elkin (Tikva Hadasha/New Hope party).
The four plans announced by Netanyahu in February 2020 are shown in red. The Atarot plan is towards the top, center of the map, denoted by an arrow.
If constructed, this new settlement will create an Israeli wedge fracturing Palestinian contiguity between East Jerusalem and Ramallah to its north. This constitutes a similar effect as the E1 settlement plans (blocking Palestinian contiguity to East Jerusalem from the east) and the Givat Hamatos and Har Homa E settlement plans (cutting between East Jerusalem and Bethlehem and fracturing Palestinian contiguity from East Jerusalem southwards). Construction in any of these settlements, let alone their combined effect, will fragment the integrity of Palestinian Jerusalem and add to existing obstacles to a Palestinian capital in the city, thereby diminishing the prospects for a future two state solution.

The advancement of all four plans was announced during Benjamin Netanyahu's reelection campaign in February 2020, after years during which Israel had to freeze them due to the extremely negative potential outcomes. While the other three plans were indeed advanced in subsequent months, up until now the Atarot plan was not. The planned discussion is yet another sign that despite political changes, the policy of the new Israeli government remains similar to that of previous ones.

Along with its negative geopolitical impact, the Atarot plan underscores yet again the discrimination of the Israeli planning and building policy against Palestinians in Jerusalem. While Israeli authorities do not approve outline plans of significant capacity for Palestinian neighborhoods, plans for many thousands of housing units in Israeli settlements and neighborhoods around the city are being approved. This is in line with the intent to limit Palestinian demography and increase the Israeli majority in the city.

Thus, Atarot is being planned as an Israeli settlement and not for Palestinian hosing needs, despite the fact that it is adjacent to two Palestinian neighborhoods with severe housing needs: Beit Hanina to its south and Kufr Aqab to its north. This policy, coupled with increasing enforcement, brings with it record numbers of home demolitions in East Jerusalem. Currently, at least two Palestinian communities in Jerusalem – Al-Bustan in Silwan and Al-Walaja on the city’s southern perimeter – are under threat of being uprooted through prevention of outline plans and subsequent mass demolitions.

At least 20% of the plan's area is recognized by Israel as private Palestinian land. The plan does not mark the private lands for expropriation, but intends to include a reparcelization process that will supposedly allocate building rights to all land owners. Despite this, the plan has been prepared and is being advanced without consulting with the Palestinian land owners.