Israel to promote east Jerusalem project on area claimed to be future Palestinian airport

Israel to promote east Jerusalem project on area claimed to be future Palestinian airport
# 27 February 2012 17:21 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. The Jerusalem municipality Building and Planning Committee last week started bureaucratic arrangements for building an industrial zone in north Jerusalem’s Atarot area, where the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) plans to establish its international airport in future state, The Jerusalem Post reported on Monday, APA reports quoting Xinhua.

Meir Margalit, a Jerusalem council member from Meretz party who holds the east Jerusalem portfolio slammed the municipality’s plans.

"This is the first step towards delivering a comprehensive plan to the airport area and to establish an industrial zone in there," he told Xinhua.

He said that Mayor Nir Barkat wants to finish the project before the end of his term for political reasons.

"Barkat is surrounded by people who think that the by-product of depriving the PNA from having their own airport in the area of Jerusalem is more important than the employment opportunities the industrial zone will produce," Margalit said.

While the government considers eastern Jerusalem beyond the 1967 war cease-fire lines as part of its "sovereign and eternal capital," the Palestinians want it as a future capital, and, along with much of the international community, consider the area as occupied.

Atarot airport, located between Jerusalem and Ramallah, was built by the British Mandate to Palestine in the 1920’s. It was controlled by Jordanian troops from 1948, and was annexed to Israel in the 1967 war.

The disputed area on which the airport is based prevented it from becoming Israel’s international airport, and it served for local flights and military training. The airport was closed in the second Intifada of 2000 due to security reasons.

Yair Gabay, a right wing Jerusalem council member and a member in the committee, confirmed the details to Xinhua.

He criticized the plan and said the area should have been used for housing units and not for industrial purposes.

"I think that the Jerusalem municipality is doing a terrible mistake for not promoting a plan of 10,000 housing units in the area. This would have been a solution for young couples who are looking to buy a house, and it would also symbolize the unity of the city," Gabay said.

He admitted that the housing project was not promoted because of diplomatic pressure from the United States.

"It’s a sort of a solution to avoid conflicts, but I find it ridiculous. It’s like closing your eyes and playing pretend," he said.

The Jerusalem Municipality said in reply that they have not received any building plans for the area of Atarot.

In a written statement, the municipality said that "the Israel Airport Authority requested to regularize the border drawings in several districts which it owns in the area (of Atarot). This is a common procedure."

In response to Xinhua’s inquiry, the Israel Airport Authority repeated the municipality’s statement, adding that the procedure " is only a matter of technicalities."