A new report by Israeli NGOs Ir Amim (“City of David”) and Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights reveals how Israeli policy is designed to restrict Palestinian development in East Jerusalem by thwarting efforts to plan Palestinian neighborhoods, using the neighborhoods of Sur Baher, al-Tur, and Beit Safafa as case studies. Below are some key points from the introduction:
Since 1967, Israel has confiscated over 38 percent of the area of East Jerusalem for the construction of neighborhoods/settlements for Israelis. The outline plans for the Palestinian neighborhoods approved by Israel in the 1980s and 1990s included extensive open areas in which construction is prohibited. Today, only 15 percent of the area of East Jerusalem (and 8.5 percent of the area of Jerusalem as a whole) is zoned for the residential needs of the Palestinian population. This discrimination in planning is the product of a policy driven by demographic considerations – in particular, the objective of increasing the Israeli population while reducing the Palestinian population, with the underlying goal of ensuring Jewish demographic superiority. At the end of 2012, the balance between the two populations was 63:37 (63 percent Israeli Jews and 37 percent Palestinian Arabs). Trends of natural growth and migration have led to a constant increase in the relative size of the Palestinian population – trends that are not expected to change in the foreseeable future. Thus planning policy in Jerusalem prioritizes demographic targets over professional considerations and Palestinian residents’ needs. The planning system in Jerusalem has effectively been recruited as a tool in the demographic struggle, and plans in the city continue to be made in the shadow of this goal.
Read the rest of the report, which goes into detail about how Palestinians who try to advance development plans for their neighborhoods become mired in bureaucratic red tape, face politically motivated restrictions on their growth, and struggle to cooperate with city officials who are unresponsive and unaccountable.