Israel has accelerated construction of the so-called National Park on the slopes of Mount Scopus in occupied Jerusalem along with new settlement construction approved by the city’s Israeli-controlled Planning and Construction Commission.
The National Park project has stirred up a heated discussion and many objections. Despite international pressure against it, the Jerusalem Municipality continues to take arbitrary measures against the Palestinian owners of the land on which the park will be built. The landowners are refused building licences for their own projects to cope with the Palestinian population expansion; as such, locals oppose what they see as a “dangerous” and illegal settler project.
Israeli groups which support a peace deal with the Palestinians have warned that the order to press ahead with the park project emanating from Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet and interior ministry prove the real motive behind that project. It is, they claim, simply to please the right-wing parties which call for the continuation of construction in occupied West Bank and Jerusalem settlements, especially after the latest group of Palestinian prisoners were released from Israeli jails as part of an agreement with the Palestinian Authority.
Reports in the Israeli media quote an employee of the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority who admitted that the purpose of the new “National Park” is to block Palestinian development in the area, rather than to preserve nature.
The park project will lead to the confiscation of more than 180 acres of Palestinian land in the East Jerusalem villages of Al-Tur and Al-Issawiya. The park itself is planned to cover 160 acres in between the two neighbourhoods, ending any contiguity of Palestinian-owned land in the area.