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Israel's Housing Cabinet approves Jerusalem cable car, boosting Silwan settlers

Cable cars [Phil Guest/Flickr]

Israel's Housing Cabinet yesterday approved the construction plan for a cable car which will boost the settler presence in the Silwan neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem, reported Haaretz.

According to the paper, "the decision to green light the project came despite an urgent inquiry sent several days ago by the plan's opponents to Attorney General Avichai Mendelbit in which they argued that a project of such importance cannot be approved by a transition government."

Despite the fact that the Attorney General's office is still examining the matter, the Housing Cabinet approved the plan, which "still needs to undergo a procedural approval by the government".

The 1.4-kilometre-long cable car line will end up at the Kedem "visitor centre" in Silwan, a Palestinian neighbourhood where the settler presence has intensified in recent times, amid evictions of Palestinians and a repressive presence from occupation forces.

Israeli authorities claim that the cable car will make the occupied Old City more accessible.

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The plan's opponents – who "intend to petition the High Court of Justice against it", Haaretz reported – come from a variety of point of views, including local Palestinians, architects, and environmentalists, who charge that the cable car will damage the Old City's landscape.

Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze'ev Elkin called the plan a "strategic project to promote tourism in the southeast basin of the Old City. We are gradually transforming a vision into new reality and soon the Western Wall and other important sites in the Old City will be more accessible."

Attorney Eitay Mack, who represents NGO Emek Shaveh, wrote to Mendelblit in July, demanding that the decision be held until a permanent government is formed, a warning he repeated last week.

"There is not a shadow of doubt that holding a debate on and approving the cable car plan at this time will be received by the public as a move arising from alien considerations, which will cost the Israeli taxpayers hundreds of millions of shekels," Mack wrote.

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In June, Israeli NGO Ir Amim reported that a "recent burst" in settler-run "tourism" projects around Jerusalem's Old City is further linking the west of the city with Silwan in the occupied East.

According to Ir Amim, the uptick in "touristic settlement projects" is part of an "intensifying belt of settlement activity in and around the Old City", adding: "blurring the Green Line, these projects are being implemented around the vicinity of the planned cable car recently approved".

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