Ma’an News Agnecy |
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — A recent master plan presented by right-wing Jewish activists envisions a “greater Jerusalem” extending far beyond the current municipal boundaries, and a future for the city which sees Palestinians as virtually nonexistent, according to a Monday report by Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
The plan, dubbed “Jerusalem 5800,” was privately contracted by right-wing Jewish-Australian businessman Kevin Bermeister, who last year supported an effort to prevent Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem from purchasing a building from Jewish homeowners.
Along with other planners, Bermeister emphasized that the plan was, in their opinion, apolitical, and instead only aimed to turn Jerusalem into a bustling city of the world that would boast five million residents, 12 million annual tourists, and borders extending all the way to Jericho in the occupied West Bank.
Haaretz highlighted, however, that the plan — which is destined for the year 2040 and encompasses the Palestinian cities of Ramallah, Bethlehem, and Jericho — makes no mention of the needs of Palestinian residents, or the development of Palestinian neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem.
The plan does not entertain the possibility that Jerusalem would include any form of Palestinian government institutions, that Palestinians would be partners in the city’s planning, and does not even mention the word “Palestinians” in the brochure at all.
The word “Muslim” appears 11 times in the brochure, but only in the chapter entitled “The demographic problem.”
The chapter on the ‘demographic threat’ calls on the Israeli government to adopt a policy “to ensure the ratio of Arab residents does not exceed 40 percent,” Haaretz said.
Otherwise, the brochure says, “the increase in the Muslims’ rate compared to the Jews is likely to continue in the future as well.”
The theme of demography is pervasive and pronounced throughout the plan, which emphasizes the necessity of maintaining a Jewish majority in the holy city, which “will not be based merely on natural growth but on increased migration to the city.”
“Israel is the Jewish nation’s core and Jerusalem is Israel and the Jewish nation’s core,” according to the first of the six principles stated in the plan. Another principle says the plan’s goal was to “create a process to increase the chance of Israel and the Jewish nation to prosper.”
According to Haaretz, critics of the plan have slammed the “future vision of the city” as a right-wing plan to draft an alternative to dividing Jerusalem into two separate capitals in the event of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The brochure itself says “the Jerusalem metropolis will not be divisible, so we see it as a territorial continuity enabling free traffic of people and merchandise,” boasting plans for an airport near Jericho that would have one entrance for Israelis and another for Palestinian citizens of the West Bank, and a railway connecting Jerusalem to Ramallah in the north and Hebron in the south.
The proposal — which was initially launched five years ago — also presented plans to build huge hotels, owned by Bermeister, in the Palestinian neighborhood of Jabal al-Mukabbir of East Jerusalem.
One of the critics of the plan was architect Yehuda Greenfield, who drafted the highly detailed partition plan of Jerusalem for the Geneva Accord.
Haaretz quoted Greenfield as saying the plan completely ignored reality.
“It’s completely cut off from the urban Jerusalem reality. It creates a totally fictitious situation that there’s one Jewish narrative here … but there are other narratives that must be addressed,” he said.
Earlier this year, Al-Shabaka, an NGO whose mission is “to educate and foster public debate on Palestinian human rights and self-determination within the framework of international law,” spoke of the dangerous connection between tourism and demography specifically in the Jerusalem 5800 plan.
Al-Shabaka highlighted that $120 billion of total added value from the implementation of the plan, together with the 75,000 to 85,000 additional full-time jobs in hotels and 300,000 additional jobs in related industries would attract more Jews to Jerusalem, increasing the number of Jews living in Jerusalem and further tilting the Jewish-Palestinian demographic balance in their favor.
Palestinian communities in occupied East Jerusalem — within the municipal boundaries and also beyond the wall in the occupied West Bank — have long been targeted by Israeli authorities in what has been denounced as a policy of “Judaization” of the holy city at the expense of other religious communities.
This “Judaization” has been characterized by the continuous expansion of illegal Jewish-only settlements and a large-scale policy of demolition of Palestinian homes.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound has also been the stage of numerous tensions over the years, with Israeli forces imposing tight restrictions on Palestinian worshipers at the site.
Many Palestinians fear that right-wing Israelis are attempting to reclaim the holy site, as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood.
Despite the 5800 plan being presented by a private institution and not by the Israeli government itself, it was received with congratulations by Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin.
Additionally, Haaretz noted that Bermeister was personally close to right-wing Israeli officials in Jerusalem, specifically right-wing activist and Jerusalem city council member Aryeh King, who was one of the project’s initiators, making the plan’s execution not completely out of the realm of possibility.
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