Israel is planning to build a new Israeli settlement in the Atarot area of East Jerusalem — the same swath of land that was slated by US President Donald Trump’s peace plan to go to the Palestinians.
According to settlement watchdog Peace Now, the Israeli Ministry of Housing submitted plans a week ago to the Jerusalem Municipality for a new settlement spanning 9,000 hectares (22,239 acres) in Atarot, which is currently an Israeli industrial zone that lies between East Jerusalem and the Palestinian neighborhoods of Qalandiya and Kafr Aqab, on the eastern side of the wall.
“The plan is at the heart of an urban Palestinian continuum built from Ramallah, through Kfar Aqab and Qalandiya, to Beit Hanina and Shu’afat, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians live,” Peace Now noted.
The group claimed the proposed settlement in Atarot “is intended to stick a wedge in the Palestinian succession and become an Israeli enclave that will prevent the Palestinian development of the central and most important metropolis in the future Palestinian state.”
According to Haaretz, the plan includes somewhere between 6,000 – 9,000 housing units, as well as 300,000 square meters of commercial space and 45,000 square meters for businesses, a hotel, and water reservoir.
“The plan does not explicitly state who the neighborhood is intended for, but it includes synagogues and Jewish ritual baths, making it clear that it is intended for a Jewish Israeli population,” Haaretz reported.
Peace Now said the step last week was just the first in a years-long process to approve the settlement and move forward with construction.
If the plan moves forward, it will be the first time a new settlement is built in East Jerusalem since the Har Homa settlement was built in 1997 on the lands of the Palestinain Abu Ghneim mountain.
Additionally, Peace Now noted that due to the fact that much of the land in question was designated as “state land” during the British Mandate, Israel will be able to establish the settlement and seize the land without consent from Palestinians who own significant portions of the land.
According to Haaretz, the construction of the settlement would result in the destruction of at least 15 Palestinian homes.
The proposed settlement in Atarot has gained widespread local and international attention due to the fact that the same area has been slated, under Trump’s peace plan, to become a “special tourism zone” to “support Muslim tourism to Jerusalem and its holy sites.”
“We envision that this zone will become a thriving and vibrant tourism center that includes state-of-the-art public transportation that provides easy access to and from the holy sites,” the plan says.
And while the plan does stipulate that Israel will maintain control over East Jerusalem and sites like Atarot, it also promises a four-year freeze on settlement construction from the Israeli government so as not to hinder the prospect of negotiations with the Palestinians.
Since its release, the Palestinians have overwhelmingly rejected the plan, and have refused to engage in negotiations with Israel under the auspices of the US government, which they argue is not a fair arbiter of the peace process.
“Netanyahu wants to strike another deadly blow to the prospect of a two-state solution for two nations,” Peace Now said in a statement.