In the shadow of the crisis in negotiations with the Palestinians, and at the height of the storm about the conviction of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, a dramatic decision was made in Jerusalem. This decision could bring about the collapse of the diplomatic process that’s hanging by a thread. The decision made on March 27 by Jerusalem’s District Planning and Building Committee makes the tender published several days later for the construction of 708 housing units in the city’s Gilo neighborhood look like a confidence-building measure.
The committee gave a settlers’ organization permission to erect a grandiose edifice in the upper part of the Arab Silwan neighborhood, adjacent to the walls of the Old City — in the heart of one of the most explosive sites in the world. A narrow road is the only dividing line between the complex, designed to serve as a “visitor center” for the El’ad Association and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and the Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sharif. Despite the fact that since the days of the British mandate, through the zoning plans drawn up under Israeli rule, the city’s planning principles forbade new construction within 75 meters (250 feet) of the wall, the committee approved a massive, tall building within 20 meters (65 feet) of the wall.