Update: How the decision was made to declare the Mount Scopus Slopes a National Park

On Thursday, November 14, 2013, the Jerusalem Regional Planning and Building Opposition Sub-Committee decided to establish a national park to span approximately 160 acres between the villages of ‘Issawiyya and a-Tur.[1] The “Mt. Scopus Slopes Park” includes most of the construction land reserves belonging to residents of these villages. The November decision brought an end to a two-year struggle during which residents of the villages, together with Palestinian and Israeli organizations, attempted to prevent establishment of the park.

As will be recalled, in October 2013, Environment Minister Amir Peretz declared his opposition to declaration of the national park.[2] How did it come to pass, then, that a month and a half after the minister’s decision to prevent establishment of the park – the minister selected by appointment as responsible for the Nature and Parks Authority – the government passed a decision declaring the opposite?

During the month of October, it turns out, a delegation from the “Likkud Beiteinu” Party visited the area intended for the park, as part of Moshe Lion’s campaign for the Jerusalem mayoral elections. Among the visitors was MK (today, Minister) Avigdor Lieberman. During the visit, the delegation was informed of Minister Peretz’s opposition to establishing a national park there from the staff at the Nature and Parks Authority.

Avigdor Lieberman contacted Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, demanding that he move plans for the Mt. Scopus Slopes National Park forward. When the prime minister failed to understand what he was talking about (after all, the Prime Minister is not familiar with every plan), Lieberman’s response was something like, “The archaeological park on Mt. Scopus.” At this stage, Interior Minister Gidon Saar chimed in, and said to Lieberman, “I have news for you regarding this topic.”

A few days following this conversation, the Prime Minister declared the establishment of The Mt. Scopus Slopes National Park as part of a number of decisions taken following the release of Palestinian prisoners.[3] Advancement of the National Park is one of the prime minister’s political decisions intended on appease the settlers in the wake of their discontent following release of the prisoners. As stated, the Prime Minister, together with the Interior Minister, decided to advance the intended park, despite the opposition of the Environment Minister, responsible for all of Israel’s national parks.

The meeting of the Oppositions Sub-Committee on November 14 opened with an announcement by a representative from the Environment Ministry, stating that the ministry wished to delay the discussion, and did not intend to present the plan. Despite this, the discussions continued, and nine hours later, after a “marathon” discussion, it was decided to approve the planned park.

Following the committee’s decision, two avenues of action remain at the disposal of those who oppose it. 1. To submit a petition to the High Court of Justice against the decision. 2. To appeal to the National Appeals Committee of the Ministry of the Interior, and only after, to the courts. In both cases, the struggle will focus on legal and planning-related avenues of recourse.


[1]  E. Benari, “Mount Scopus Park Project Approved”, Arutz Sheva, November 15, 2013.

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