SPECIAL HAR HOMA SECTION

THE TRUTH ABOUT HAR HOMA


Editor's Note: The whole Har Homa controversy originates from misinformation, deliberate deception and incitement by the Palestinians and their fellow travelers on the Israeli left. Naturally their hostile alliance soon grew to include anti-Israel groups in America, Europe, and other Arab countries. The most shameful aspect of this issue is has been the halting, weak, and fearful behavior of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He has seemed almost incapable of pursuing a Jewish/Zionist agenda. That he would NEED to be pushed, prodded and forced to exercise Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, Israel's capital, is an ominous sign for the future. Below you will find commentary and historical background to the Har Home issue.

Information Division, Israel Foreign Ministry - Jerusalem -- February 24, 1997

BUILDING IN JERUSALEM - BACKGROUND
HAR HOMA

1. The planned neighborhood to be built in Har Homa is located in an unpopulated area near Kibbutz Ramat Rahel, within the municipal boundaries of the city of Jerusalem.

2. Jerusalem is a vibrant, growing city. The purpose of the Har Homa project is to alleviate the housing shortage of both the Jewish and Arab residents of Jerusalem. As such, it constitutes part of the overall municipal plan to construct 20,000 new housing units for the Jewish sector and 8,500 for the Arab sector - a ratio comparable to that of the Jewish and Arab populations in the city. In this regard, Prime Minister Netanyahu has recently said (Feb. 20):

"We will build in Jerusalem, without conditions, without restrictions. We will build throughout the city../... We are as committed to the Arab residents of Jerusalem as we are to providing for the Jewish residents. They, too, need housing, and we will build, adapting the building plans to the needs of both populations."

3. The Har Homa project necessitated the appropriation of 1,400 dunams from Jewish landowners and 450 dunams from Arab landowners. The High Court of Justice upheld the government's right to appropriate this land in order to meet the housing needs of the public at large.

ROADS

4. The Ministerial Committee on Jerusalem Affairs decided (February 18, 1997) to advance the construction of several roads, as part of the development of the infrastructure of Jerusalem, in order to reduce traffic congestion in the city and to improve access routes both to and within the city.

5. The development of such an infrastructure is necessary to serve the growing needs of Jerusalem as a major city, whose current population of 500,000 is expected to increase to 800,000 within the next few years. The resulting improvement in transport will enhance both the quality of life of Jerusalem's residents and access from the periphery to the city center.

6. The approved roads in the Jerusalem area are:

a. A new road linking Jerusalem with the coastal plain, which will serve as an alternative to the existing, already congested road.

b. An eastern ring road linking the Arab population centers to the north (Ramallah and Nablus) and south (Bethlehem and Hebron) of Jerusalem. This road will enable those traveling between these centers to bypass the crowded Jerusalem city center, as is customary in metropolises throughout the world. (Map available on our website at:

http://www.israel-mfa.gov.il/news/jerroads.html)

LEGAL ASPECTS

7. There is no basis to the Palestinian claims that the planning construction constitutes a violation of the agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. These agreements do not place any restrictions on Israeli building in areas under Israeli control.

8. Both the Declaration of Principles (1993) and the Interim Agreement (1995) state that the issue of Jerusalem will be discussed in the framework of the permanent status negotiations, and that the Palestinian side has no authority in Jerusalem during the interim period. Under these agreements, the Palestinians have no standing to demand that Israel coordinate building in Jerusalem with them

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SNS News Service
Har Choma [Special Report - February 24, 1996]

Due to the increasing attention being given to the planned new Jerusalem community of Har Choma, we deemed it appropriate to present to you some background pertaining to the area and the project at hand.

LOCATION

The most recent area of Jerusalem property to come into the spotlight of local and international politics, Har Choma, is located south-east of the city's center, opposite the Gilo Junction, entrance to the city. On the map it is located at 171'/126' and is 774 meters high. To the north-east is the small Arab village of Tzur Baher; to the north, Ramat Rachel; and to the south, Bet Lechem (Bethlehem) and Bet Sachur. In Arabic, it is called Um Tuba or Jebel Abu-Naeim. Seen from Ramat Rachel, a stone wall is prominent, thus its name in Hebrew: the Wall Hill.

At the present, it is mostly covered with trees. Along its west slope is a north-south road, number 356, that connects with the former Jordanian bypass road that circumvented Jerusalem prior to 1967, thus allowing Bet Lehem and Hebron Hills residents to travel north. At the crest is a small area owned by a Christian denomination.

HAR CHOMA - Past and Present

During the 1940s, Jews made private purchases of real estate on the hill and a development company, Shikun U'M'lacha, representing of group of investors purchased 130 dunam (32 acres). By 1948, they had managed to sell 90 one-dunam plots. Eventually, the Jewish National Fund assumed responsibility for most of the hill and planted hundreds of trees before the area fell into Jordanian hands. As with other sites, such as Deheisha and Yattir, which was partially JNF property, the Jordanians did not permit building there and kept it as forest area.

By 1958, Shikun U'M'lacha, had ceased activities as an association. After 1967, a new development company sought to promote the project. Its manager, David Mir, continued purchasing property from Arabs on the hill. Despite pleas to begin work during the 1980s, Mir was rebuffed as the area was slated to be part of Jerusalem's "Green Belt". In 1992, the Finance Minister ordered the expropriation of all private land on the hill.

At the time, it was presumed that this would eliminate any judicial interference with future construction because the vast majority of the expropriated land, 70%, was in Jewish hands. Mir bitterly fought the move up to the Supreme Court. In addition, he pointed out that if ever a decision was taken to build, due to the political atmosphere, it would be nigh impossible. He suggested that only private construction could succeed and that his plans did not need the land which was in Arab ownership.

For the past four years, Peace Now and its local front group, Ir Shalem, have been advocating a hands-off policy. They claim that the land is Arab, belongs to the Jerusalem section of "Palestine" and would only cause senseless adversity. Danny Zeidman, their American-born lawyer, who has also been in the forefront in the battles against Kfar Shiloach, the Moslem Quarter and Ras El-Amud, has waged major legal campaigns, including petitions to the High Court of Justice.

The issue of residential construction on Har Choma has evolved into a major confrontation between Israel and the PLO Authority (PA). Faisal el-Husseini, the PA Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, has stated that building at the site would be a causus belli. Stalwarts of the national camp as well as the Third Way party, view any hesitation as a reason for threatening the integrity of Netanyahu's coalition. The strategic location of Har Choma is important for a link up with the Gush Etzion area, as well as preventing an Arab encirclement of south-east Jerusalem, whereby Bet Sachur and Tzur Baher would become one territorial continuum.

One of the sidelights is the fierce legal battle being fought to receive the compensation funds, reaching into the millions of dollars, which the government will have to pay to the owners of the expropriated properties. Mir, for example, still claims that his plans are much better and that if the government parcels out sections among dozens of contractors (the hill is scheduled to contain over 5,000 housing units), there will be irreparable damage done, both construction-wise and environmentally.

Meron Benvenisti, former Jerusalem Deputy-Mayor representing the Ratz party, noted recently that whereas many of the Jerusalem "satellite" neighborhoods, such as Neve Yaakov, Givat Shafat and others, were established to improve the Jewish demographics in the capital, because of the large amounts of Arabs who were subsequently employed in these construction projects, parallel Arab "satellite" villages expanded.

The Har Choma project was undertaken by the previous Labor-led administration. Many MKs, aligned with centrist parties, are in favor of continued building in the city of Jerusalem , the capital of Israel. Now, the project is ready to go and all concerned parties await the official okay from the Prime Minister himself. What started out as a standard building project for another suburb community of Jerusalem has become a test case of might between the PA and Israel, vis-à-vis the future of Jerusalem and the negotiations for the "final status" of the city.

The Knesset has stated repeatedly that Jerusalem is not up for discussion and it will remain the undivided capital of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Now, PLO officials have stated any attempt to build on Har Choma in particular or in Jerusalem in general, will be deemed a violation of the accords and "a declaration of war."

MKs who are calling themselves the Land of Israel Front are forging ahead to pressure the Prime Minister and his Cabinet to give the okay for the project and its immediate beginning. Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert stated the Har Choma project is the final straw regarding, what he sees as unfavorable governmental policies regarding building in the capital. Olmert made it clear he would not tolerate a postponement of the scheduled building.

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HAR HOMA OPINION SURVEY

By: Aaron Lerner Date: 25 February, 1997

The following are the results of a survey of 1,040 adult Israelis carried out by Dr. Yaacov Katz of the Center for Community Studies at Bar Ilan University on 17 - 24 February:

1. Should the Government of Israel build on Har Homa and similar sites in Jerusalem?

58% Yes [67% of Jews ] 32% No 10% Not clear

2. If the Government of Israel decides to approve construction on Har Homa and similar sites in Jerusalem should it take into consideration the positions of the leaders of the U.S. and European nations on the matter?

29% Yes 59% No [69% of Jews] 12% Not clear

3. Should the Government of Israel postpone construction on Har Homa and similar sites in Jerusalem because of threats by members of the Palestinian Authority that they will use violence in order to foil the construction plans?

28% Yes 63% No [73% of Jews] 9% Not clear

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Dr. Aaron Lerner is Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)


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