Jewish Building Plan in Silwan Runs Into Trouble

View of the eastern Yerushalayim neighborhood of Silwan (Corinna Kern/Flash90)
View of the eastern Yerushalayim neighborhood of Silwan (Corinna Kern/Flash90)

Israeli government officials have intervened to block a Jewish housing plan for the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan in east Yerushalayim, fearing violent local protests, according to Israel Radio on Wednesday.

The Yerushalayim municipality postponed on Wednesday a scheduled decision to allow the project to go forward, after a heated exchange among members of the city council. The city’s Planning and Building Committee put off for two weeks a decision on whether to approve a request for planning permission for a three-story building in the middle of the predominantly Palestinian neighborhood.

The timing of the request appears to be a factor, as it comes ahead of the start of Ramadan next Monday. Officials are concerned that a Jewish housing initiative in the flashpoint neighborhood could spark tensions just when the recent wave of terrorist attacks has finally waned.

The project is located in the Batan Al Hawa area of Silwan, opposite the seven-story Beit Yonatan, where a controversy has raged for years over the rights of Jewish families to live there.

Deputy Mayor Dov Kalmanovich (Jewish Home), who is in favor of the new housing, said the proposal would have passed had it not been for “political pressure from outside Yerushalayim.”

“This was a political and not a professional decision. The committee did not carry out a professional assessment and as someone who identifies with the national camp, I am embarrassed that we …[are] preventing building in Yerushalayim,” Kalmanovich said in a statement.