Israel talks endlessly about illegal building by Palestinians in East Jerusalem, including the Old City. The reason is, as elsewhere, that the Old City has an outdated master plan that prevents building new homes by Palestinians. (Israeli Jews in the so-called Jewish Quarter have a separate plan.)
For eight years Jerusalem municipality has been considering a new master plan for the Palestinian parts of the Old City that would also allow precisely zero new residential building by Palestinians.
But there would be a change. It would stop Jewish settlers from building in the Palestinian quarters too. The reason, it seems, was objections from UNESCO officials.
That’s why Haaretz reports today that the plan has been thrown out by the municipality. Councillors objected that the ban on new building would mean the settlers would not be able to build in the Muslim Quarter, including a new neighbourhood they have planned at Herod’s Gate.
The article includes an interesting fact: “since 1974, only six building permits in the Muslim Quarter were submitted, five of them by Jews.” So only one Palestinian has been able to build legally in their own quarter in four decades.
Ir Amim points out that no new master plan is actually good news from the settlers’ point of view, as they received five times as many permits in the same period.
Meanwhile, they can take over the Muslim Quarter in other ways: by stealing Palestinian homes, ousting the owners, and then using armed guards, paid for by the city, and corrupt Israeli courts to enforce their ownership claim.