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 ELAD's influence of Justice Ministry in Reversal of Kedem decision

On September 19, Ir Amim obtained documents from a freedom of information (FOI) request verifying that the ELAD settler organization took demonstrable steps to influence the Justice Ministry in overturning the June 2015 National Planning Council Appeals Committee’s decision to limit the scope of the Kedem Compound.  The massive ELAD settler advanced visitor center calls for construction of a five-story structure over more than 16,000 square meters in the old Givati Parking Lot in Silwan, just opposite the ELAD managed City of David and about 20 meters from the walls of the Old City.  

In January 2016, Justice Ministry Director-General Eli Palmor, appearing on behalf of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, attended a plenary session of the National Planning Council to personally call for review of the Appeals Committee’s 2015 decision.  The request was issued just six months after the Appeals Committee – on which a representative of the Justice Ministry sits – issued its ruling.  The plenary body voted to hold a new discussion on the project, thereby voiding the Appeals Committee’s June 2015 judgement, and in May 2016 proceeded to overturn the decision. The reversal strongly signaled the protracted efforts of the Elad settler organization – also acting simultaneously through the Interior Committee of the Knesset and through the court system – to undermine earlier outcomes, revealing the deeply political nature of the plenary process. 

In response, Ir Amim filed an FOI request seeking evidence of ELAD’s role in influencing the Justice Ministry.  Documents obtained through this process now confirm the settler organization’s role in organizing the Ministry’s intervention in the planning process and the eventual overturning of the 2015 Appeals Committee ruling.  A letter dated December 25, 2016 to Yair Hirsh, Chief of Staff to Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, from ELAD representative Aharon (last name redacted) outlines three attachments substantiating ELAD’s attempts to encourage the Ministry’s intervention:

  1. Background information summarizing the sequence of events to date, in such a way as to imply that assistance would be needed to restore the plan and to encourage Hirsh to send someone from the Ministry to the plenary session who would be capable of challenging the head of the Appeals Committee
  2. A list of National Planning and Building Council members denoting which members needed “treatment”
  3. A copy of a memorandum from the Attorney General outlining acceptable parameters for engaging any member of planning institutions in which ministries are represented

Only after receipt of this letter did Director-General Palmor attend the plenary session to request reopening of the Appeal’s Committee’s decision to limit the scope of the Kedem Compound. 

Results of the FOI request reveal that it is exceedingly rare for the full body to review an Appeals Committee decision; moreover, it is customary for the Ministry of Justice representative, a chair of the Appeals Committee, to defend decisions made at the appeals level.  In this case, the director general of the Justice Ministry was responsible for reopening discussion, with the result of nullifying the decision of a body on which the Justice Ministry is represented.

The unanticipated setback completely reversed the positive results achieved in the Appeals Committee which, responding to numerous objections from the residents of Silwan, Israeli NGOs Ir Amim and Emek Shaveh and a panel of 35 planners, conservation experts and intellectuals, determined that the area of the plan should be reduced by half and imposed clear restrictions on site usage.  In effect, overriding the Appeals Committee restored the April 2014 District Planning and Building Committee’s decision to fully approve the plan with the minor modification of reducing the height of the building by one story.           

The Kedem plan represents another example of the State’s privatization of tourist sites and national parks to settler organizations in Jerusalem.  Privatization of tourist sites in East Jerusalem constitutes state promoted settlement building in Palestinian neighborhoods no less than the construction of new settlement units.  In addition to culturally appropriating critical historical sites in Jerusalem and exporting a singular Jewish nationalist narrative to some half a million visitors (in the case of City of David) each year, through their management of tourist projects around the Historic Basin settlers fulfill the Israeli government’s objectives of consolidating control of the hotly contested area, further eroding opening conditions for negotiating a political resolution on Jerusalem.  

Continuing in its efforts to challenge these developments, Ir Amim will amend two petitions currently pending in the District Court with the results of the FOI findings.  In addition to a petition related to the anomalous proceedings at the National Planning Council regarding the Kedem plan, Ir Amim had previously petitioned the Court in response to the Appeals Committee reversal, arguing against the privatization of a tourist site ostensibly designed to serve the public interest.  

Please see previous alert for further background information on the full trajectory of Kedem's advancement in the planning process. 

Please direct all inquiries to:

Betty Herschman

Director of International Relations & Advocacy

Ir Amim (City of Nations/City of Peoples)





Twitter: @IrAmimAlerts





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