Occupied East Jerusalem – The Israeli occupation authorities in Jerusalem approved a plan to build housing units in an illegal settlement in the Palestinian area of Khirbet Tabalia, southwest of the city.
The local planning committee of the Jerusalem municipality, which is under Israeli control, approved on Wednesday a plan to construct “public buildings and roads” in the illegal Jewish settlement of “Givat Hamatos,” according to Israeli media.
The illegal settlement at present consists of a group of caravanserais and caravanserais that were erected in the early 1990s for Ethiopian settlers.
According to Jerusalem map expert Khalil Tufakji, the area extends over about 900 dunams.
“This is old – new. [Israel] Converting expropriated lands […] “In long-term buildings,” Tufakci told Al Jazeera.
If built, it would be “the first new settlement to be established in East Jerusalem in the past twenty years.”
Tufakji explained that part of the land is owned by the German Lutheran Church, while other parts are classified as private Palestinian property, including for refugees, and pointed to previous sales of church-owned land to Jewish settlements north of Nazareth – in “Bethlehem.” Galilee ”- and Sarona near Tel Aviv.
The announcement came a day after Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met with US Vice President Kamala Harris in Washington, DC.
Plans since 2012 to build units in the settlement have met with strong opposition from Israeli allies Germany and the United States, prompting authorities to repeatedly delay implementation.
But in April 2020, authorities announced that 6,500 housing units would be built for the settlement, replacing previous plans for the area that included the construction of 3,400 housing units and 1,100 hotel rooms.
In November 2020, Israel issued a tender for the construction of 1,257 housing units in the settlement.
Tufakci said he believed it was possible that during outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent visit to Jerusalem earlier this week, she “gave them [Israeli authorities] The green light to continue the settlement – or at least raise the mantle of German pressure.”
The Biden administration has not yet commented on the new development.
The settlement is located on lands across the Green Line of 1967, seized from the towns of Beit Safafa in the Jerusalem Governorate and Beit Jala in the Bethlehem Governorate.
The construction plan will isolate Beit Safafa from the surrounding Palestinian villages and from the rest of Jerusalem. It will also link the Israeli settlements adjacent to Jabal Abu Ghneim or “Har Homa” with “Gilo” and the proposed “Givat Yael” settlement on land belonging to the Palestinian town of Walaja.
Fairouz Sharkawi, from Jawdour al-Quds (Jerusalem), told Al Jazeera that the Khirbet Tabalia issue is part of “the policies of comprehensive colonial planning for the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem.”
She said that the goal is to “cut and suffocate Palestinian communities and prevent their growth” to be used as “a tool of displacement,” adding that settlement would mean “cutting all Palestinian ties to Beit Safafa and isolating it completely.”
According to Tufakci, the construction of the “Givat Hamatos” settlement is part of the 2020 plan for Greater Jerusalem, which was originally drawn up in 2004.
One of the main goals contained in the master plan is to “maintain a strong Jewish majority in the city” and consolidate Israeli hegemony by linking settlements in the West Bank to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Israel is progressing in expanding several other settlements in occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank.
According to Israeli media, the Planning Committee agreed, on Wednesday, to submit plans to expand one of the largest settlements in Jerusalem, which is Pisgat Ze’ev, which is built on Palestinian land in the neighborhoods of Beit Hanina, Shuafat and Hizma.
Next week, authorities will also discuss the construction of a new settlement dividing the occupied West Bank in half, known as the E1 plan, with the aim of connecting the Ma’ale Adumim settlement bloc with Jerusalem.
The E1 plan also puts dozens of Palestinian Bedouin communities in the area at risk of forced displacement.
In addition, the Israeli authorities began promoting the construction of more than 9,000 housing units for a new settlement called “Atarot” on land belonging to the Palestinian village of Qalandia, north of occupied Jerusalem.
The settlement, along with the military barrier located in the area, will separate the cities of Ramallah and Jerusalem from each other.