The headquarters of Israel's Army Radio began its move to Jerusalem yesterday, with Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman laying the building's cornerstone.
The opening ceremony was attended by Lieberman, as well as key figures from Israel's Ministry of Defence, its Chief of Staff and Army Radio's Commander. Lieberman addressed the ceremony saying:
This ceremony is a sign that all the arguments are behind us. I'm positive that Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, will provide special inspiration to Army Radio [and] will always enjoy public confidence.
Lieberman added that the new building would not just house Army Radio but also "a large representation of the IDF and the Ministry of Defence," including a soldiers' residence for ultra-Orthodox soldiers, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Army Radio – a national Israeli radio station subordinate to the army – previously broadcast from Jaffa but will now be housed in a 2,500 square-metre military compound "constructed near the main entrance to Jerusalem". According to the Times of Israel, it will be located at the foot of the park which surrounds the Knesset, not far from Lifta. The construction is expected to take three years to complete.
Commenting on the planned ceremony two weeks ago, Lieberman said that "When I took up the post of defence minister, I decided that Army Radio must broadcast from the most worthy place – Jerusalem, our eternal capital […] Now we're setting the first facts on the ground and within two weeks of the trial, 'You're listening to Army Radio from Jerusalem' will turn from vision into reality."
Moving the radio's headquarters will be interpreted as only the latest instalment of Israel's "facts on the ground" policy in Jerusalem. Since US President Donald Trump moved the US embassy to Jerusalem and unilaterally recognised the city as Israel's capital in May, an emboldened Israel has undertaken a number of infrastructure projects which take no heed of the city's occupied status.
Between June and August, Israeli authorities promoted 2,275 settlement housing units in occupied East Jerusalem – in the illegal settlements of Ramot and Gilo, north and south of Jerusalem respectively. Israeli NGO Ir Amim said of the initiative: "This sequencing of events once again exemplifies a pattern of the state investing billions of shekels in transportation infrastructures to allow for extensive construction beyond the Green Line."
The Israeli establishment has also doubled down on its rhetoric regarding Jerusalem. Earlier this week, Israel's Education Minister and head of the right-wing Jewish Home Party Naftali Bennett reiterated that Israel would not accept Jerusalem as a "shared capital" between it and any future Palestinian state. Bennett elaborated: "Israel will not allow any concessions over its sovereignty […] we are a small country and we will not give the Arabs even a centimetre."
Jerusalem has been under Israeli control since the Six Day War of 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, the Sinai Peninsula and Jerusalem. Since then Israel has consistently constructed illegal settlements in East Jerusalem, with B'Tselem estimating there were 205,220 Israelis living in illegal settlements in East Jerusalem at the end of 2014.