Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to greenlight the construction of some 1,000 housing units in eastern Jerusalem in the coming weeks is great news for the strategic vision of preserving Jerusalem as a united capital. If Netanyahu follows through on this, it will once and for all dash the Palestinians’ hopes of creating a gap between the neighborhoods of Har Homa and Gilo in Jerusalem’s south.
As far as the Palestinians are concerned, the area in question—Givat Hamatos—is key to their plan of dividing Jerusalem. They are quite open about their plans to create a contiguous urban foothold running from Bethlehem through Beit Jala and Givat Hamatos. This area will be part of what they call their future capital.
The significance of Netanyahu’s decision was not lost on the left-wing group Peace Now.
“Construction in Givat Hamatos will severely hamper the prospect of a two-state solution because it will ultimately block the possibility of territorial contiguity between East Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and in particular will prevent Palestinian Beit Safafa from connecting with a future Palestinian state,” said the group in a statement.
Peace Now’s response underscores just how important the decision is, and how critical a role it will have in preventing the division of the city.
That contiguous line Peace Now wants so badly must be avoided, and this is exactly what Netanyahu’s plan aims to do. Furthermore, construction in that area is not just strategic, it is the most obvious thing to do in light of the fact that the area is adjacent to the Green Line and is only a stone’s throw away from what the world calls “western Jerusalem.”
To get the job done, Netanyahu should also unfreeze construction plans in northern Jerusalem just beyond the Green Line, near the Atarot Industrial Park. If he does so, he will be able to debunk the rumors that this area is poised to be handed over to the Palestinians to develop their tourism industry, as indicated by the Trump administration’s “Peace to Prosperity“ proposal.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.