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Analysis: Which Jerusalem? Israel’s little-known master plans (Part I)

June 8, 2016 5:26 P.M. (Updated: June 29, 2016 12:37 P.M.)
An Israeli flag, displayed on a roof of a settlement in East Jerusalem, is seen in front of the dome of the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Sept. 17, 2015 (AFP/Thomas Coex, File)
By: Al-Shabaka

Al-Shabaka is an independent non-profit organization whose mission is to educate and foster public debate on Palestinian human rights and self-determination within the framework of international law.

This policy brief is authored by Al-Shabaka Policy Fellow Nur Arafeh, in which she analyzes all three Israeli master plans for Jerusalem, explaining how they aim to shape the city into a tourism and high-tech center, and the ways in which they use urban planning to reshape the city’s demography. She spotlights the dangerous new laws Israel has reactivated or passed to advance its colonization of the city -- the Absentee Property Law and the "third generation law." She also addresses the role of the Palestinian Authority and the international community, as well as of civil society organizations, and identifies achievable measures that can be implemented by those concerned with Jerusalem’s fate. The second part of this brief was published on Thursday, and the third and final part will be published on Friday.

It is the year 2050, and Israel has fulfilled its vision for Jerusalem: Visitors will see a largely Jewish high-tech center amid a sea of tourists, with a minimal Palestinian presence. To achieve this vision, Israel is working on three master plans; one is well-known but two remain under the radar.

Edward Said had already warned in 1995 that “only by first projecting an idea of Jerusalem could Israel then proceed to the changes on the ground [which] would then correspond to the images and projections.” Israel’s “idea” of Jerusalem, as elaborated in its master plans, involves maximizing the number of Jews and reducing the number of Palestinians through a gradual process of colonization, displacement and dispossession.

The best known of the three Israeli master plans for the city is the Jerusalem 2020 Master Plan, which has not been deposited for public view even though it was first published in 2004. The least known are the Marom Plan, a government-commissioned plan for the development of Jerusalem, and the “Jerusalem 5800” Plan, also known as Jerusalem 2050, which is the outcome of a private sector initiative and is presented as a “transformational master plan for Jerusalem.”

As Israel plans for 2050, the Palestinian Authority (PA) “idea” of Jerusalem dates back to 2010, when the Strategic Multi-Sector Development Plan for East Jerusalem (SMDP) 2011-2013 was published. And the PA’s current national development plan for 2014-2016 simply refers back to the 2010 plan. In addition, while the Palestinian leadership speaks of East Jerusalem, which Israel occupied and illegally annexed in 1967, as the capital of the State of Palestine and a priority development zone, only 0.44 percent of the PA’s 2015 budget was to be allocated to the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and to the Jerusalem governorate.

Before analyzing the ways in which the three plans reinforce each other, it should be noted that Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem is illegal under international law and is not recognized by the international community. In addition, Israel’s declaration that Jerusalem is its capital, both West and East, has no international legal standing, which is why there is no diplomatic representation in Jerusalem, not even by the United States.

  1. The “Jerusalem 2020 Master Plan” was prepared by a national planning committee and first published in August 2004. It is the first comprehensive and detailed spatial plan for both East and West Jerusalem since Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967. Although the plan has not been validated yet as it was not deposited for public review, Israeli authorities are implementing its vision. The plan addresses several development areas including urban planning, archeology, tourism, economy, education, transportation, environment, culture, and art. The plan is available online in Hebrew as well as in Arabic at the Civic Coalition for Defending the Palestinians’ Rights in Jerusalem; this policy brief draws on the “Local Outline Plan”- Report N.4.

  2. The Marom Plan is a government-commissioned plan for the development of Jerusalem that will be implemented by the Jerusalem Development Authority. The Authority’s goal is to promote Jerusalem “as an international city, a leader in commerce and the quality of life in the public domain.” It is a major planning body for the Jerusalem Municipality, the land Administration, and other organizations in the fields of housing, employment, etc.

    The Jerusalem Institute of Israeli Studies is conducting the consultation, research, and monitoring for the Marom Plan. The Institute is a multidisciplinary research center that plays a leading role in the planning and development policies for Jerusalem in the fields of urban planning, demography, infrastructure, education, housing, industry, labor market, tourism, culture, etc.

  3. The “Jerusalem 5800” Master Plan, also known as “Jerusalem 2050,” is a private initiative founded by Kevin Bermeister, an Australian technology innovator and real estate investor. The plan provides a vision and project proposals for Jerusalem up to the year 2050, serving as a “transformational master plan for Jerusalem” that can be implemented together with other municipal and national government agencies. It is divided into various independent projects, each of which can be implemented on its own. The team for the implementation of the plan is said to include “the best Israeli tourism, transport, environment, heritage and security planners.”

A Jewish destination for tourism, higher education and high-tech

The development of the tourism sector in Jerusalem is at the heart of the three development plans examined in this policy brief. For example, under the 2020 Plan, the Jerusalem Municipality seeks to promote the tourism sector and to especially enhance the cultural aspects of Jerusalem. It is planning a marketing campaign to increase the potential of real estate development, support international and urban tourism, and invest in tourism infrastructure to ensure the sector’s development.

The Marom Plan also aims to develop Jerusalem as a tourist city. In 2014 alone, the Jerusalem Institute of Israeli Studies conducted 14 of its 18 studies for that year on the tourism sector and submitted them to the Jerusalem Municipality, the Ministry of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs, and the Jerusalem Development Authority. Moreover, as part of the Marom Plan, the Israeli government earmarked around $42 million to boost Jerusalem as an international tourist destination, while the Ministry of Tourism was expected to allocate some $21.5 million for the construction of hotels in Jerusalem. The Authority also offers specific incentives to entrepreneurs and companies to establish or enlarge hotels in Jerusalem, and to organize cultural events to attract tourists such as the Jerusalem Opera Festival as well as events for the tourism industry, such as the Jerusalem Convention for International Tourism.

Promoting the tourism sector also lies at the core of the Jerusalem 5800 Master Plan, which envisages Jerusalem as a “Global City, an important tourist, ecological, spiritual, and cultural world hub” that attracts 12 million tourists (10 million foreign and 2 million domestic) and more than 4 million residents.

To make Jerusalem “the Middle East’s anchor tourist attraction and resource,” the Jerusalem 5800 plan aims to increase private investment and construction of hotels; build rooftop gardens and parks; and transform the areas surrounding the Old City into hotels while prohibiting the use of vehicles. The plan also envisions the construction of high-quality transportation routes, including a “high-speed national rail line; an extensive network of buses and public transportation; the addition of numerous highways and the expansion of existing roads; and an express ‘super highway’ that transverses the country from north to south.” The plan also proposes the construction of an airport in the Horkania Valley between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea to serve 35 million passengers per year. The airport would be connected through access roads and rail to Jerusalem, Ben Gurion airport and other city centers.

The Jerusalem 5800 plan attempts to present itself as an apolitical plan that promotes “peace through economic prosperity,” but it has demographic goals that prove otherwise. In fact, it envisages that the $120 billion of total added value from the implementation of the plan, together with the 75,000 - 85,000 additional full time jobs in hotels plus 300,000 additional jobs in related industries would all reduce poverty -- and would attract more Jews to Jerusalem, increasing the number of Jews living in Jerusalem and further tilting the Jewish-Palestinian demographic balance in their favor.

However, the tourism sector is not only seen as an engine of economic development to attract Jews into the city. Israel’s development of, and domination over, the tourism sector in Jerusalem, is a tool to control the narrative and ensure the projection of Jerusalem in the outside world as a “Jewish city” (see for example the official Ministry of Tourism map of the Old City). Israel has strict rules over who can serve as tour guides, and the narrative and history that the tourists are told. Palestinian tour guides who do not abide by Israel’s false branding and who try to give an alternative and critical analysis of the situation can lose their licenses.

These plans to promote the Israeli tourism industry have gone hand in hand with Israeli-imposed restrictions on the development of the Palestinian tourism industry in East Jerusalem. Israeli hurdles include: the isolation of East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT), especially after the construction of the Wall; shortage of land and the resulting high cost; weak physical infrastructure; high taxes; restrictions on the release of permits to build hotels or convert buildings to hotels; and difficult licensing procedures for Palestinian tourist businesses. These obstacles, even as millions of dollars are being poured into the Israeli tourism market, ensure that the Palestinian tourism industry has no hope of competing with Israel’s.

The Palestinian tourism sector is further hampered by the lack of a clear Palestinian vision and promotional strategy, severely impeding its ability to fuel the limited economic development possible under occupation. Moreover, although civil society organizations have stepped in to promote the sector, their efforts have been described as “fragmented and poorly coordinated” in an analysis in This Week in Palestine.

Another common goal of the three plans is to attract Jews from all over the world to Jerusalem by developing two advanced industries: higher education and high-tech.

To promote the higher education industry, the 2020 Master Plan aims to build an international university in the city center with English as the main language of instruction. As for the Marom Plan, it seeks to make Jerusalem a “leading academic city” that is attractive to both Jewish and international students, who will be encouraged to settle in Jerusalem once they have finished their studies. In the same vein, the Jerusalem 5800 plan sees an opportunity to create jobs and achieve economic growth through “extended-stay educational tourism.”

The development of the higher education industry is intrinsically linked to the development of a high-tech, bio-information, and biotechnology industry. The 2020 Master Plan calls for the establishment of a university for management and technology in the city center of Jerusalem, and for government assistance in Research and Development (R&D) in the fields of high-tech and biotechnology. Similarly, the Marom Plan aims at promoting Jerusalem as a center of R&D in the field of biotechnology.

It is within this context that the Jerusalem Development Authority established the BioJerusalem Center to foster clusters of bio-med companies in Jerusalem as a potential engine of economic development. To attract these companies to Jerusalem, the Authority is offering very generous benefits including: Tax breaks, grants for hiring new workers in Jerusalem, and special grants to companies involved in R&D or in building physical infrastructure. High-tech and healthcare industries are also expected to be major beneficiaries of the “Jerusalem 5800” Master Plan.

Originally published in full on Al-Shabaka's website on May 31, 2016.

The views expressed in this article are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect Ma'an News Agency's editorial policy.
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