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Jerusalem Attractions: Har Homa

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.

Prime Minister Netanyahu unveiled a plan in October 2014 to build 1,000 new settlement units in Jerusalem: 400 in Har Homa and 600 in Ramat Shlomo.  In early November an additional fifty units were announced for Ramat Shlomo, and on November 19 fifty more units were announced to be built in Har Homa and nineteen more in Ramat Shlomo.  These areas are areas that Palestinians contest must be a part of their future state, and the announcement of these settlements has been met with extremely harsh criticism from the United States, the United Nations, and other international actors.  UN officials have claimed that moving forward with these settlements may incite violence from Palestinians and undermine the viability of a 2 state solution.  Critics claim that the building of these homes will simply exacerbate the conflict and push both sides farther away from a peaceful resolution.  The United States government has referred to the settlements as "illegitimate" and "deeply concerning". In light of the announcement of this construction, Netanyahu stated that "I cannot tell a Jew that he is not allowed to purchase a home in Jerusalem". 

Due to "political sensitivity," Netanyahu's government suspended plans for the construction of these settlements in March 2015.

Sources: Shmuel Even-Or Orenstein, "A Crown for Jerusalem," JNF, 1996;
Peter Beaumont. “Israel moves closer to building 1,000 settler housing units in East Jerusalem,” The Gaurdian (October 30, 2014)