Jerusalem has endured many difficult times under Democratic American presidents. Former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama never made life easy for Israeli governments where building in the capital city was concerned.
Experience has shown that Democratic administrations in Washington prefer to preserve the idea of a Palestinian capital in eastern Jerusalem, rather than support and promote full Israeli sovereignty over all of a united Jerusalem.
In 1997, plans for the construction of new Jewish homes on the Mount of Olives—on what would become the neighborhood of Ma’aleh Hazeitim—were approved, but the Clinton administration pressured the Israeli government to halt building in the area.
In 2009, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided, most courageously, to approve the building of the Shepherd Hotel area in Sheikh Jarrah–located close to the home of the Nazi-supporting Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin El Husseini—the Obama White House denounced the move.
Democratic administrations imposed building freezes in strategic areas—such as Givat Hamatos, E-1, Atarot and Gilo—which would ensure a contiguous Jewish presence in Jerusalem. Every plan placed before the District Committee was shelved; every stone moved in “strategic places” was an excuse for condemnation by a Democratic-run White House.
This is why Israel must establish facts on the ground in Jerusalem before January 20, when a new Democratic president is inaugurated.
This involves completing two construction plans, one in Givat Hamatos and the other in Atarot, which together could generate more than 12,000 new housing units in Jerusalem. The plans for Givat Hamatos have already been approved, and it is now up to the government authorities to issue tenders to contractors.
The second project needs to be approved by the building and planning committees in accordance with the Housing Ministry’s plan to establish a residential neighborhood on the grounds of the old Atarot Airport.
Such an abundance of new apartments could lead to a reduction of housing costs in Jerusalem, thus allowing young people to remain in the city. Moreover, if these building plans are approved and implemented, it will constitute an act of true Zionism and a just end to the Palestinian dream of dividing Jerusalem.
Regardless of shifting American attitudes towards construction in Jerusalem, Israel must continue to build in its eternal capital city.
Yair Gabbay, an attorney, is a former Jerusalem city councilman and a Likud candidate for Knesset.
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