Har Homa - A Call for Action
Gershon Baskin, Ph.D. and Zakaria
al Qaq, Ph.D. - Directors
The Har Homa Web Page
The Israeli-Palestinian peace process
is progressing rapidly and with surprising vigor and success.
redeployment of Israeli forces has taken place in six Palestinian cities
which have been taken over by the Palestinian Authority.
Palestinians are embarking on national elections for the first time and
the cooperative mechanisms established by Oslo II are up and working.
Israel and Syria have begun a new round of peace talks which seem
to have great potential.
All of these positive developments could
come to a sudden and abrupt end in the very near future as a result of an
Israeli decision taken several years ago.
This decision is about
the construction of a new neighborhood for Israelis to be built in the
southern part of Jerusalem aimed at creating an Israeli urban sprawl from
Jerusalem to Bethlehem called Har Homa (in Hebrew meaning the Mountain of
the Wall). The name of the neighborhood itself is indicative of the
political intention behind the plan itself.
The Israelis and the
Palestinians have agreed (in Oslo I of September 1993) that the future and
final status of Jerusalem would be determined by negotiations between the
parties in the framework of final status talks which will begin in May
An Israeli act of building a new neighborhood in Har Homa is
not a direct violation of the word of the agreement, however, it is a
violation of the spirit of the agreement.
The construction of Har
Homa is aimed at creating Israeli contiguous development surrounding
Palestinians in East Jerusalem and to further strengthen the Israelis side
in the demographic war in East Jerusalem.
This kind of thinking is
an anachronism and in light of the peace process, in Jerusalem of 1996
there is no need for another new exclusive Israeli neighborhood in East
Israel claims that most of the land of Har Homa has been
expropriated from Jewish land owners who purchased the land prior to the
creation of the State of Israel. Factually, this is true, however, it is
also factually true that most of the land of West Jerusalem was privately
owned Palestinian land prior to the establishment of Israel. This kind of
claim opens the door to an unending battle over land control. Elements of
this will be in the final status talks about refugees, the right of return
and/or the right of compensation.
IPCRI would like to propose
two alternative plans to the existing Israeli
Har Homa or Jabel Ghoneim
(in Arabic) should become a Palestinian-Israeli Peace Forest.
already a forest planted on the mountain. There is so much limited open
green space in Jerusalem that keeping the forest would be a blessing for
the environment and for peace.
In the center of the forest an
Israeli-Palestinian peace center could be established which could serve as
a meeting place for Israelis and Palestinians.
There isn't a single
piece of real estate in Jerusalem today which is shared. Every building,
institution or landmark in the city is either Israeli or
The Har Homa-Jabel Ghoneim Peace Center would be
shared property in the city. The center itself could organize meetings or
rent out space for ongoing meeting already existing.
status talks between Israel and the Palestinians could be held in the
There is no better way to turn a space of conflict into a
space of peace.
Har Homa-Jabel Ghoneim
could become a joint Israeli-Palestinian neighborhood.
contractors should be allocated a fair share of the land for development
and granted the same conditions and benefits as their Israeli
The new neighborhood would be developed as a joint
town in which Israelis and Palestinians choose to live in peace.
is not forced integration but rather peaceful Israelis and Palestinians
making a decision to purchase flats in a mixed neighborhood, the first of
its kind and a symbol of the new Jerusalem after peace.
IPCRI believes that the international community has a
great role to play in helping the Israelis and the Palestinians to achieve
real peace between them.
The government of Israel must be aware of
the feelings of the international community with regard to this
It is urgent that these opinions be expressed prior to the
creation of any more new facts on the ground.
There is a very good
chance that ground will be broken in Har Homa in the coming weeks or
Mr. Barak and the Government of Israel must know that
ground breaking in Har Homa has the potential of being earth shattering in
the international diplomatic community.
Immediate attention and
action is called for. We have enclosed a Fact Sheet about Har Homa for
your review. We would be pleased to arrange for you to visit the sight and
to meet with knowledgeable people about future developments. Please feel
free to call upon us.
FACT SHEET: HAR HOMA
WHERE IS IT: Har Homa or Abu Ghoneim lies within the Jerusalem
boundaries (set by Israel in 1967) between the Jerusalem Arab neighborhood
of Umm-Tuba and the neighboring Arab city of Beit Sahour (in the West Bank
and under PNA rule).
The total planned area for the neighborhood
is 1,950 dunam on which 6,500 housing units will be built for some 32,500
Israelis. The built up area of the neighborhood will be 572 dunams.
housing density will be 3.5 units per dunam, 50% of the units will be of
three rooms for young couples, the rest will be larger units. About 1/3 of
the units will be single family dwellings.
WHO OWNED THE LAND:
On the 12th July 1992 the Israeli Government expropriated 1,850 dunam
of vacant land on which there is a planted forest (which is the total
planned area of the new neighborhood) and which was previously owned
approximately seventy per cent by Jewish interests and thirty per cent by
Arabs and Christians. (In 1937 the Jewish agency bought 25% of the total
land area of the planned neighborhood.
In 1967, the Jewish Agency
purchased an additional plot bringing its total holdings to 572 dunam and
a Jewish Developing company Mekor purchased 760 dunam the remaining 428
dunam were owned by private Arab landowners).
Over the past several
years there have been continuous court cases between the various land
development companies in Israel and the Government of Israel over the
question of who legally owns the lands and the amount of compensation to
be paid for the expropriation. In the end, the government will be paying
the land development companies some $45,000 per dunam as
The Palestinian land owners have refused to accept
any compensation for the expropriated land.
The Courts: The
expropriation was challenged by two groups, one Jewish and one Arab before
the Israeli High Court of Justice.
Earlier this year the High Court
of Justice dismissed these challenges upholding the expropriation as
within the government's legitimate right to expropriate land for a public
purpose. The government plans to build 6500 dwelling units on this
ISSUES: The expropriation raises a number of
1. Har Homa lies within the boundaries of
Jerusalem whose status under the Oslo Agreements is to be determined in
the final negotiations which are to commence no later than May 1996.
The building of a Jewish neighborhood in an area previously
uninhabited by Jews is inconsistent with this commitment to negotiations.
Further, it may be construed as a deliberate attempt to strengthen
Israel's stronghold over Jerusalem by altering its physical and
demographic status. Given the tensions on both sides of the peace process
this construction will most certainly incite anger and violence.
The establishment of an Israeli presence in this area begs the question of
expansion. Given the government's commitment to urban continuity it is
likely that expropriation will continue to the east and westward to
connect with Gilo thereby establishing a ring of Israeli neighborhoods on
3. The Arab challenge to the High Court of
Justice argued that the overcrowding and substandard conditions in the
surrounding Arab villages meant that any development should be preserved
for the Palestinian people.
In the past twenty-eight years no new
neighborhoods have been built to accommodate the Arab population while
over sixty thousand dwelling units have been built for Israelis on
Further the development would cut Arabs off from
Bethlehem and the surrounding Arab towns.
4. Lastly the area houses
a number of Christian sites including St Theodore's Well and several
Byzantine and Georgian monasteries. The area also contains a significant
area of forest.