Israel plans to establish large-scale settlements at the closed Jerusalem airport

Jerusalem (Associated Press)-Israel is advancing plans to build large-scale Jewish settlements on the site of a long-abandoned airport. The Palestinians had hoped that one day would serve their future capital in East Jerusalem.

This is one of them Several settlement projects Progressing Despite being condemned The Biden administration, along with the Palestinians and many in the international community, views settlements as obstacles to resolving a century-old conflict.

Hagit Ofran of Peace Now, an Israeli anti-settlement watchdog group, stated that the Atarot settlement will include 9,000 housing units sold to ultra-Orthodox Jews, making it a “small city” of approximately 50,000 people, adjacent to three densely populated Palestine Community.

Kufr Aqab, one of the Palestinian neighbourhoods, is located within the municipal borders of Jerusalem, but on the other side of Israel Controversial barriers to separation, A towering concrete wall extending along the edge of the proposed site. The settlement is adjacent to Qalandiya, the main military checkpoint between Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. Thousands of Palestinians pass through this checkpoint every day.

It will be built on a 100-year-old airport runway, which is now abandoned, overgrown with weeds, and crows nesting on the control tower.

“We are located in the center of a Palestinian urban area,” Overland said. “If Israel establishes a settlement here, we will prevent and destroy the possibility of an independent Palestinian state and a two-State agreement.”

Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1967 war, and annexed it in an internationally unrecognized move. The Palestinians want these three territories to form their future state and hope that East Jerusalem will become their capital.

Israel sees the entire Jerusalem as its unified capital and the settlements as Jewish communities built to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population and prevent the city from splitting.

“Jerusalem is a vibrant and growing capital of the State of Israel,” said Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum. “The housing project will provide thousands of much-needed housing units.”

An Israeli government official said that the project is in the early stages of planning and it may take several years to obtain government approval. The official declined to be named because the plan is still being discussed at the municipal level.

Ofran admitted that it would take at least four years to start construction, but said the planning process is underway. The city committee voted for the project on Wednesday, and the district committee is expected to approve the project on December 6.

“Once they approve, it’s like snowballing,” Overland said.

Deputy Mayor Hassan-Nahoum pointed out that Israel has promoted the construction of an industrial zone and a shopping mall nearby to meet the needs of the Palestinians.

But even if they can work and shop in Jerusalem, Palestinians still suffer from a severe housing crisis, the root of which is Discriminatory licensing system And lack of space. This has forced thousands of people to build without authorization—with the risk of being demolished—or move to the occupied West Bank.Dozens of Palestinian families Facing possible deportation Settler organizations flooded into the crowded East Jerusalem community.

Khalil Tufakji, a Palestinian cartographer and former peace negotiator who focuses on Jerusalem, said the new settlements are part of a larger process of driving Palestinians out of the city and bringing in Jewish residents to change its identity and prevent any future divisions. .

“This is a fundamental demographic change that benefits Israel,” he said.

On the southern edge of the planned settlement stands an abandoned control tower and terminal building that was once part of a small but bustling international airport.

The British built a military airport in the early 1920s, when Jerusalem was the administrative capital of the Palestinian Trust. Jordan occupied the site along with East Jerusalem and other areas of the West Bank during the war established around Israel in 1948 and transformed it into a civilian airport to serve religious pilgrims and other travelers.

In the 1950s and 1960s, tourists could shuttle between Jerusalem and destinations in Europe and the Middle East, including Rome, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, and even cities in Saudi Arabia and Iran.Israeli researcher Eldad Brin recently published an article Academic articles about airports, Said it served 100,000 passengers in 1966.

After the 1967 war, Israel continued to use the airport, but mainly for local and charter flights because the major airlines refused to provide services to the occupied territories. Due to security issues, the airport was closed shortly after the start of the second Palestinian uprising or uprising in 2000. Today, its small luggage conveyor belt is full of dust, and broken glass is scattered on the floor.

Brin thinks that the settlement project is a “huge mistake.” He prefers to transform the closed airport into an open space and cultural center, and the old terminal building is restored and turned into a museum.

“I am a romantic,” he said. “In the center of this huge Arab community, you have a very large area,” where there are almost no parks and recreational areas. “And you have a historic building that should be on the protection list. Everything is there.”

The Palestinians had hoped that one day the Jerusalem International Airport could be reopened for the Palestinian state. However, settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank continue to expand — there are now more than 700,000 settlers — and it is almost impossible to imagine a viable Palestinian state with Israel.

Israel’s current Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and the right-wing parties that dominate his political system strongly support settlements and oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state, although most of the international community believes that a two-state solution is the only realistic solution. Resolve conflicts. No substantive peace talks have been conducted for more than a decade.

“The State of Palestine will have something like the Jerusalem airport,” Tufakji said.

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