Building in Har Homa represents the last phase of a larger municipal housing plan for the city of Jerusalem begun in 1968. The entire area of Har Homa is less than 460 acres. It is completely vacant and is not adjacent to any Arab population.
The original decision to go forward with construction on Har Homa
was made by Labor Prime Minister Shimon
Peres in 1996; construction did not proceed because the issue was
tied up in Israeli courts. The Israeli Supreme Court rejected appeals
by both Jewish and Arab landowners and approved the expropriation of
land for the project. The expropriations were undertaken on the basis
of the fundamental common law principle of eminent domain, allowing
governments to expropriate land from private owners for public use.
Most of the land 75% — was expropriated from Jews.
The construction plan was approved by the Netanyahu government after the Court's ruling to address a severe housing
shortage among both Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem. The project will
ultimately include 6,500 housing units, as well as schools, parks,
public buildings and commercial and industrial zones. Construction
plans for 3,015 housing units in 10 Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem
will be implemented simultaneously with the Har Homa project.
Nothing in any of the agreements signed between the Palestinians and Israelis preclude building in Jerusalem. Both Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres made clear they had no intention of refraining from building in Jerusalem and never slowed down the pace of construction in the capital. Different sides of the Israeli political spectrum, including many Labor Party leaders, have urged the Netanyahu government to proceed with the Har Homa project.
Contrary to Palestinian claims, Har Homa is not in "traditional Arab East Jerusalem." It is neither "Arab" (most of the land was expropriated from Jews); nor "East" (it is in southern Jerusalem).
The Palestinians have also insisted that Har Homa will isolate them from the West Bank or limit their access to Jerusalem. When Har Homa is completed, however, considerable areas of territorial continuity between the Arab neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem and the Palestinian areas of the West Bank will remain. Palestinians will also have the same access to Jerusalem they presently enjoy.
Palestinian threats of violence in response to the project violate the letter and spirit of the Oslo agreements and raise questions in the minds of Israelis about their commitment to peace. Furthermore, by bringing their grievances to the UN, the Palestinians undermine the agreements they have signed committing them to resolve disputes directly with Israel through agreed upon procedures.
Sources: Shmuel Even-Or Orenstein, "A Crown for Jerusalem," JNF, 1996