Israel settlers

  

The Israeli housing ministry has begun advancing a master plan to build a massive Jewish neighborhood in an east Jerusalem area that appears to be earmarked in the US administration’s peace plan for a Palestinian tourism center, according to different news reports.

On February 9, the ministry submitted a building plan that would see some 9,000 housing units constructed at the site of the former Qalandiya airport (known by Israelis as Atarot airport) near the Jerusalem neighborhood of Kafr Aqab, which has been inoperative since the breakout of the second Palestinian Intifada in 2000.

The new Jewish neighborhood in Qalandiya would break a long stretch of Palestinian urban areas extending from the east Jerusalem neighborhoods of Beit Hanina and Shu’afat north to Kfar Aqab, Qalandiya and Ramallah on the other side of the security barrier.

The project will still need to be authorized in several other planning stages that can take several years, but the submission of the building plan marks a significant step toward construction after several years of delays due to lack of funds, according to Israeli news reports.

The housing ministry claims the site designated for construction is mostly on state land, but parts of the new neighborhood would sit on parcels privately owned by Palestinians, which requires the demolition of at least 15 families’ homes, Haaretz website reported.

In a statement denouncing the Qalandiya building plan, the Peace Now settlement watchdog said the construction would prevent the establishment of a viable Palestinian state with a capital in east Jerusalem.

“Benjamin Netanyahu wants to deal yet another fatal blow to the prospect of a two-state solution. The planned settlement neighborhood is a wedge at the heart of Palestinian urban continuity between Ramallah and east Jerusalem, which prevents the establishment of a viable Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital,” the watchdog said in a statement.