|The Jerusalem Development Authority together with the General Custodian under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice is promoting a new outline plan (TPS 969162) for another Israeli settlement along the southern perimeter of East Jerusalem called "Givat HaShaked." The plan calls for 473 housing units on 38.7 dunams of land located in Sharafat, the northwestern part of the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa (see map below). The Jerusalem Local Planning Committee has scheduled a session to discuss the plan for deposit for objections on December 8. This plan comes swiftly on the heels of major new settlement advancements throughout East Jerusalem and its vicinity in Atarot, E1, Givat Hamatos and Har Homa E, which have all accelerated under the current Israeli government.
Although the plan is designated for land adjacent to the built-up area of the Sharafat neighborhood and includes land owned by neighborhood residents, the planning department of the Jerusalem Municipality describes it as detached from existing neighborhoods. Despite its location, the plan is not depicted for the development of Sharafat, but rather for the establishment of a new Israeli settlement replete with allocated plots for synagogues.
Requests by the Sharafat, Beit Safafa community council to designate the plan for the development needs of the neighborhood were rejected. In a similar fashion, the remaining land reserves on the eastern edge of Beit Safafa, which could have served to address the neighborhood's housing needs, were depleted to advance construction of the Israeli settlement of Givat Hamatos. Rather than utilizing the limited land reserves in East Jerusalem to rectify the longstanding under-development and neglect of Palestinian neighborhoods, the Israeli authorities consistently promote more plans for the construction of new Israeli settlements. The same trend is playing out along the northern tip of East Jerusalem in the Atarot/Qalandia area where Israel is promoting a major new settlement comprised of 9000 housing units for ultra-Orthodox Jews in the heart of a central Palestinian urban space.
A portion of the plots of land marked in the new outline plan is managed by the General Custodian, while other parts are privately owned by Palestinian residents of Sharafat. It is unclear how an outline plan can be submitted for land administered by the General Custodian, which typically manages properties whose owners are unknown until they or their heirs are located. Such a move is highly unusual and seemingly marks a new phenomenon.
Recently, a formal land registration process began in the Sharafat area of Beit Safafa in the framework of the Israeli government's settlement of land title procedures, which are being carried out across East Jerusalem. These procedures were initiated as part of Government Decision No. 3790, which aims to reduce socio-economic disparities and promote economic development in East Jerusalem. Although portrayed as a measure to ostensibly benefit Palestinian residents, there has been grave alarm that these procedures would in fact be exploited to confiscate Palestinian land for political purposes, leading to the expansion of Jewish settlement and widespread Palestinian dispossession in the city. Indeed in April 2021, Ir Amim uncovered that the Israeli government had initiated settlement of land title procedures in the Um Haroun section of Sheikh Jarrah, formally registering the title of properties to alleged Jewish owners without the Palestinian residents' knowledge. Many of these residents are under threat of eviction by settler organizations.
It should be noted that the General Custodian, which sits within the Ministry of Justice, is one of the state bodies directly involved in the settlement of title process. At this point, it is uncertain whether the area designated in the new outline plan initiated by the General Custodian is the land that has undergone formal land registration in Sharafat. However, in the event that it is the same location, this move would constitute yet another brazen example of how the settlement of title procedures are repeatedly being used to aid state authorities and settler groups in taking over more land in East Jerusalem.
As 2021 comes to a close, it has become more evident that although the current Israeli government is comprised of a broad coalition, it is unequivocally advancing a hardline rightwing agenda propelled by far rightwing politicians in strategic positions. Since the theoretical "government of change" came to power half a year ago, it has successfully undertaken systematic measures, which sabotage any remaining viability of a negotiated political resolution and carry severe ramifications on Palestinian human rights. Settlement advancements in the most sensitive locations in and around East Jerusalem have accelerated unimpeded, while heightened threats of mass Palestinian displacement from the city have soared to an unprecedented level.