Press Release: Decision to Approve Elad’s “Kedem Compound” Plan in Silwan Awakens Fear of Extreme Politicization of Planning and Building Institutions

The decision of the National Planning and Building Council made public just a few hours ago, to approve construction of the Kedem Compound on an area of some 15,000 sq. m., could have been predicted in advance, from the moment that the Justice Minister forced the National Planning and Building Council to hold a rehearing on the plan. This rehearing took place yesterday (Tuesday, March 22) and the sense throughout was that it was only a formality that would ultimately result in approval of the plan to establish the ideological  mall of Elad and the Nature and Parks Authority adjacent to the Old City walls at the entrance to the village of Silwan. This decision is a key step in strengthening the settlement of Silwan and will inflict severe damage on important archeological remains discovered there and deal a harsh blow to the multi-cultural nature of Jerusalem.

Throughout the hearing, blatant indications of political support for the plan were patently evident. Council Chairman Mr. Avigdor Yitzhaki, for example, pointed out the great importance of the building. Mr. Yitzhaki mentioned several times that it was necessary to erect a building “that would protect visitors from the sun,” and stated that in his opinion, the Regional Committee knows every meter and street of Jerusalem and therefore, its professional opinion should be trusted. Director General of the Justice Ministry, Ms. Emi Palmor, also stated her positive regard for the program. During the hearing, members of Silwan were removed from the hearing room, and the attorney representing them left in protest against the dismissive attitude towards the needs of the Palestinian residents of the city.

In the previous round, which took place in May 2015, prior to the elections, the appeals committee of the Planning and Building Council decided to drastically reduce the size of the building. After a two-day hearing, members of the committee formulated a 120-page case for their decision. In this round, at the rehearing, members of the National Council devoted only four hours to discussing the grandiose plan, and their decision was substantiated in a one-page document only.

The decision to build a mall-sized building on top of Jerusalem antiquities, for the benefit of a political organization, arouses the fear that he planning institutions have been politicized in the extreme, as well as the fear that it will be destructive to Jerusalem as a World Heritage Site. Instead of leaving antiquities exposed and accessible to all, the planning committees, bowing to political pressure, decided to approve unprecedented damage to the antiquities and to transfer these relics of historical heritage to Elad, an organization with a right wing nationalist ideology. The Antiquities Authority’s support of this project testifies to the inability of this governmental organ to protect Jerusalem’s past and preserve it for the general public today and for the benefit of future generations.

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