It is good to see that some astute use of money has succeeded where the stupidity of "peace agreements" has failed. It is time to get these squatters off our land, reclaim what is rightfully ours, without regret or the need for explanation, and move on to reclaiming every other square inch of greater Israel.
It is not the relinquishing of our ancestral lands that will bring peace--it is the reclamation of those lands. Let's begin with reclaiming Gaza, then truly reclaiming Samaria and Judea.
Next, we should move on to reclaiming those lands Hashm promised us which have been kept from us by the 70 nations.
Last update - 10:03 31/01/2008
By Meron Rapoport, Haaretz Correspondent
The Yemin Yehuda non-profit association has begun building 200 housing units in the Shimon Hatzaddik compound, in the heart of East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarra neighborhood. In the process, the organization intends to demolish the homes of dozens of Palestinian families who live there.
This neighborhood is in a strategic location: If Yemin Yehuda completes its plan, it will cut the Old City off from the Palestinian neighborhoods in northern Jerusalem.
MK Benny Elon (National Union-National Religious Party), who supports building the new neighborhood, says it is designed to create a Jewish continuum surrounding the Old City, where there currently is a massive Palestinian majority.
Elon says this can be done by declaring open areas to be national parks and placing state property back-to-back with lands under Jewish ownership.
"Building Jewish neighborhoods next to open areas will prevent invasion and illegal construction by Palestinians who live near the Old City," says Elon.
The new neighborhood is slated to cover 18 dunams next to the tomb of Shimon Hatzaddik. According to the plan submitted to the Jerusalem municipal planning commission, Palestinian buildings must be demolished to make room for 200 housing units.
The plan states that open areas will become residential, and that the construction density in the area will be increased to include five- and six-story buildings, which will require changing the Municipal Construction Plan.
Deputy Mayor Yehoshua Pollack, who heads the local commission, says he is not familiar with the new plan, but that he seeks to "advance any construction plan, be it by Jews or Arabs."
Pollack noted that contrary to reports that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had ordered a halt to construction in East Jerusalem, the municipality has not been informed of any such restrictions.
In 2004, Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski sought Housing Ministry permission to build a Jewish neighborhood adjacent to the Simon Hatzaddik tomb, "in order to strengthen the connection between the Jewish neighborhoods" in East Jerusalem.
Currently, about 40 Palestinian families live in the area, which is very close to the American Colony Hotel, one of the most important centers of Palestinian and international activity in East Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, the American Jewish millionaire Irving Moskowitz already has purchased the nearby Shepherd's Hotel, and wants to build several dozen housing units there for Jews.
Furthermore, about two months ago, Haaretz reported that the Israel Lands Administration had leased the Ateret Cohanim organization a large area known as Kerem Hamufti, opposite Shepherd's Hotel.
The Jewish continuum
Connecting all these dots could create a significant Jewish continuum and cut Sheikh Jarra and the Old City off from the Palestinian neighborhoods to the north.
A Jewish neighborhood had existed at the Shimon Hatzaddik compound until 1948, when the Jewish inhabitants fled during the war. The area was settled by Palestinians fleeing from West Jerusalem.
After the Six-Day War, the Sephardic Community Committee and the Ashkenazi Community Committee initiated proceedings to claim the area, on the grounds that it had belonged to them since the 19th century.
About 30 years ago, some of the Palestinian families agreed to start paying rent to the two organizations.
A few years ago, the Nahalat Shimon association received the rights from the two organizations. It is initiating the construction of the new neighborhood.
The Palestinian residents, represented by attorney Salah Abu Hussein, argued that the land belongs to a Palestinian who lives in Jerusalem.
The Supreme Court rejected the Palestinian's ownership claim two years ago, but refused to state who does own the land.
Abu Hussein says the Palestinian residents have been paying rent for decades under an agreement that grants them ownership after 30 years.
Meir Margalit of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions says the new plan is very dangerous because it aims to thwart any chance of a future agreement based on the division of Jerusalem.