Today, the Jerusalem Local Planning Committee advanced a new outline plan (TPS 977964) for a Wadi Joz business park designated for 78 dunams in the area of Wadi Joz. This should not be confused with the East District Plan, a separate, but equally as problematic, outline plan for a locale adjacent to the area in the Wadi Joz plan. Today's session at the Local Planning Committee marks the first stage in the planning process needed to approve the Wadi Joz plan.
Known as the "Silicon Wadi" plan, the municipality has engaged in major publicity surrounding its intent to transform the Wadi Joz commercial area into a large industrial high-tech hub ostensibly for the benefit of East Jerusalem Palestinians. The plan, however, involves the eviction and/or demolition of many of the existing Palestinian businesses and buildings along the main commercial street in Wadi Joz and has been met with strong opposition from East Jerusalem residents, particularly those who stand to be affected.
According to the provisions of the plan, the construction will include complexes from 8-14 stories high, the majority of which is designated for office and commercial space. Only 10% of the construction area will be allotted for residential use, while the plan itself only includes 166 housing units. The plan likewise entails construction of a wide boulevard, which will be built at the expense of the currently built-up area.
Beyond the devastating impact of widespread demolitions of existing businesses and structures, the plan also raises concerns that the Israeli authorities will exploit the planning procedures to locate alleged Palestinian absentee properties and transfer lands into the hands of the State. It should also be noted that while Israel focuses on bolstering employment and economic activity in East Jerusalem, it simultaneously continues to suppress residential development in Palestinian neighborhoods.
As with nearly all outline plans advanced in East Jerusalem in recent years, the Wadi Joz business park plan only allocates a marginal amount for residential use, which hardly meets the acute housing needs of the Palestinian population. Rather than undertaking measures to rectify the housing crisis, these plans only exacerbate the current situation and perpetuate the residential planning stranglehold, which ultimately serves to push Palestinians out of the city.