MESSAGE TO WORLD: JERUZALEM GETS TOP-PRIORITY DEVELOPMENT STATUS
by Hillel Fendel
The ministerial committee for legislation approved a bill that will
grant special benefits to the capital, including incentives for
construction in western, eastern and northern Jerusalem.
The committees approval means the bill will have official government
support when it comes up for its Knesset votes. Some 45 MKs are signed
on the proposal, which should have no trouble passing in the Knesset.
The bill calls for an annual government grant to Jerusalem, as well as
an upgrade of its status for the encouragement of investments in
education, housing, and employment. Jerusalem will now enjoy the
highest-priority classification in the country, with the goal of
stopping the recent exodus of young couples and strengthening the
citys Israeli status.
The upgrade in Jerusalem's city status was initiated by MK Uri Ariel (National
Union), who said, The true message given by the passage of this bill is
the governments change of direction regarding Jerusalem, and a signal
that construction in the city will soon be unfrozen.
The bill, which is a set of changes and emendations to the existing
Jerusalem Law, specifically encourages the construction of affordable
housing complexes, to be accomplished by simplifying the planning and
approval processes. Many of the citys reserves for future housing lie
in neighborhoods such as Pisgat Zeev, Gilo, Ramot, Nvei Yaakov and Har
Homa which were liberated in the Six Day War in 1967 and therefore
some international condemnation of the bill is expected.
Jerusalem, Complete and United
Though visitors to the city can detect no difference between the
built-up neighborhoods that were always part of Jerusalem and those that
joined 43 years ago, many in the international community still regard
the latter as settlements. However, Israels "Basic Law: Jerusalem,
Capital of Israel, passed in 1980, begins with these words: Jerusalem,
complete and united, is the capital of Israel.
Mayor Nir Barkat, who worked hard for the bills passage, thanked the
ministerial committee for legislation, and said, The Knessets and
governments formal recognition of the need to strengthen Jerusalem is
critical for the citys future and continued growth. This decision will
help Jerusalem to continue to be attractive to the young, to tourists,
and to investors.
This is a first step towards returning Jerusalem to the map of Israel,
MK Ariel said, in terms of young couples and small and medium
businesses. It will encourage housing starts in the capital; until now
the policy has been to freeze and neglect Jerusalem, and this will
hopefully signal a turnaround and new construction in the capital.
Communications Minister Moshe Kachlon of the Likud said, Whoever among
the Palestinians and the world expects the present Government of Israel
to recognize foreign claims of sovereignty in our capital is mistaken