IDF plans academy in East Jerusalem to establish total Israeli ownership

July 4, 2012
Sarah Benton

This posting has 4 items:
1) AFP News report;
2) Peace Now comment and map from Settlement Watch;
3) JPost reports reasons for E. Jerusalem site;
4) Palestinian Information Centre report and comment

Photo of East Jerusalem’s ‘Arab Quarter, by National Geographic

Israel plans military college in east Jerusalem
July 03, 2012

JERUSALEM — Israel’s interior ministry has approved the construction of a military academy on land in the Mount of Olives in Arab east Jerusalem, Israeli activists and officials told AFP on Wednesday.

The plan is likely to spark controversy and has already been dubbed a “provocation.”

“This project to construct a national defence college in Jerusalem was voted on a month ago by the Jerusalem municipality planning committee and another interior ministry committee confirmed it on Monday,” Pepe Alalu, a council member in the Holy City, told AFP.

The public has 60 days to appeal the plan before it can be formally approved.

“There’s little chance that an appeal will be accepted by the interior ministry given that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supports this project,” said Daniel Seidemann, director of the NGO Terrestrial Jerusalem.

The project, which calls for an academy for officers is likely to stoke controversy, with the Palestinians objecting to any Israeli construction in east Jerusalem.

Israel captured the eastern half of the city during the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised internationally, but the Palestinians want the east of the city for the capital of their future state.

The project constitutes “a provocation that could deal a new blow to the chance of engaging in dialogue (with the Palestinians) on the future of the city,” Alalu said. “It would be better to build a school on the site rather than an Israeli military college,” he added.

Seidemann, whose NGO tracks developments in Jerusalem that could affect the peace process, including settlement construction, also criticised the plan.

He condemned the decision to choose “a site as sacred as the Mount of Olives to build a military academy.” The plan “cannot fail to produce opposition from Christian churches, even those best disposed towards Israel,” he said.

Several important churches are located on the Mount of Olives, which holds religious significance for Christians, who believe Jesus Christ was arrested there before his crucifixion. The Mount of Olives also holds religious significance for Jews, who believe the Messiah will arrive at the site.

Seidemann warned that building the academy in east Jerusalem would isolate Israel, attract criticism from governments around the world, and could even produce a boycott by foreign militaries.

“Not a single one of them will place a foot there, so this initiative will further isolate Israel,” he said.

According to the Jerusalem Post, the college will cover a42,000 square metres.

Military College at a Sensitive Spot in East Jerusalem
By Settlement Watch, Peace Now
July 2, 2012

The Regional Committee for Planning approved today the depositing of plan no. 51870 for the construction of the Israeli Military College at one of the most sensitive places in East Jerusalem: Mount of Olives. Following this approval, the plan will be deposited for public review and the public will be granted 60 days to file objections. After hearing the objections, the plan can be approved and validated.

Eyes on the Ground in East Jerualem

The plan is located near the Beit Orot Settlement and the Palestinian neighborhood of A-Suwane, at the hilltop of Mt. of Olives. The plans call for an 8 story structure, 5 stories of which will be built into the ridge, with 41,480 sq. m. of built up space.

I believe that one can’t think of Mount of Olives as real estate. It is important for the three monotheistic religions: the 3,000 years old Jewish cemetery, is on Mt. of Olives, where the resurrection of the dead should begin when the Messiah comes; A thin bridge will connect the Haram A-Sharif and the Mt. of Olives at the end of the days, according to the Islam; and for the Christians, the Mt. of Olives is a site that connected with the life and the death of Christ, where he spent his last days before the crucifixion, and where he ascended.

On top of all this holiness, Mt. of Olives is under dispute between us and the Palestinians, and we will have to solve this dispute only through an agreement. Bringing the Military Academy to this spot is quite insensitive and if I may add, not so smart, of our Government.

Today’s reason: economic regeneration

JPost, excerpts
July 02, 2012

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has touted the college in the past as a way to attract young, working people to the city.

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Efrat Orbach echoed Barkat’s sentiment, adding that the location was chosen due to its proximity to the Hebrew University, allowing soldiers to take advantage of university courses during their studies.

A Defense Ministry spokeswoman said that it was decided to move the National Defense College in order to free up land for housing in the Gush Dan region, as well as an ideological push to have national institutions located in Jerusalem and economically depressed areas of the periphery.

The college will bring thousands of commanders to Jerusalem and will also provide hundreds of jobs, she added.

The spokeswoman denied claims that the land in question is contested, noting that the land had already been earmarked for some kind of national institution for years and it is all located within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem.

2011 reason: ‘we are a presence here with our government and our army and our institutions’
Jpost, excerpts
February 16, 2011

City Councilor Meir Margalit, a member of the opposition in the Meretz party … accused the municipality of “deceiving” the Defense Ministry, and called on the Ministry to look for land within the Green Line.

Ir Amim also appealed to the Defense Ministry to alter the plan before they submit it for review.

“It’s sending a message: ‘We don’t just own it, but we are a presence here with our government and our army and our institutions,’” said Ir Amim spokeswoman Orly Noy. “There is something very declarative about it being there.”

A Defense Ministry spokeswoman said the Mount Scopus option had not yet been approved, pending reviews by both the Jerusalem Municipality and the defense establishments.

“One of the goals of the review is to determine that the area is fully owned by the State of Israel,” she said. “If it is determined that the area is not owned by the State of Israel, the defense establishment will move the colleges to another area.”

[“Ir Amim seeks to render Jerusalem a more viable and equitable city for the Israelis and Palestinians who share it. Ir Amim envisions a city that ensures the dignity and welfare of all its residents and that safeguards their holy places, as well as their historical and cultural heritages – today, as well as in the future. Ir Amim also aspires to a sustainable political future for Jerusalem, achievable only through a negotiated process between Israel and the Palestinians.
Ir Amim was founded in 2000, and became active as a non-profit organization in 2004.”]

Israel approved plan to establish military college in East Jerusalem
By Palestinian Information Centre
July 3, 2012

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM – The Israeli district committee for planning and building approved a plan to build a military college in the Mount of Zeitoun (Olives) near Matla hospital in the eastern part of Jerusalem.

Field researcher in settlement affairs Ahmed Sablaban said the military college would be built on 14 dunums of Palestinian land east of the old city of Jerusalem.

According to the plan, the college will include a military academy for army commandership and war administration and special offices for senior Israeli army officers, and it can absorb about 400 military students and 130 academics.

Sabalaban affirmed that this plan is part of a broader scheme aimed at moving and establishing government headquarters in east Jerusalem in order to confirm Jerusalem as a capital for the Jewish state.

He warned that Israel, through such step, would continue to strengthen its control over east Jerusalem and create further fait accompli on the ground.

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