Academic journal article Jerusalem Quarterly

The Jerusalem Master Plan: Planning into the Conflict

Academic journal article Jerusalem Quarterly

The Jerusalem Master Plan: Planning into the Conflict

Article excerpt

this paper investigates the Jerusalem master Plan with reference to the israeli- Palestinian conflict over Jerusalem.

the Jerusalem master Plan is the first comprehensive plan for the "whole" city (both the western and the eastern parts): for the first time, the comprehensive spatial vision of Jerusalem in the twenty-first century that the israeli authorities aim to realize is clearly expressed. in particular, the paper focuses on the theme of housing: it analyses in detail the contents of the master plan, showing the different treatment of the arab and Jewish populations, and it reflects on the chances the different aspects of the plan have of being implemented. it is argued that the master plan is an integral part of a forty-year israeli urban strategy concerning Jerusalem, aimed at encouraging Jewish residential settlement in the eastern part of the city (even if it presents some elements of discontinuity that are worth underlining).

Introduction

Planning the Occupation

it is rather banal to state that space is both political and strategic and that, as a consequence, the design and organization

of space is a political and strategic activity.1 notwithstanding that, planning is often considered an almost depoliticized activity or, at least, a progressive practice, ignoring "the position of planning as an arm of the modern nation-state ... [and overlooking] the numerous instances in which planning functions as a form of deliberate social control and oppression exercised by elites over weaker groups."2 But we only need to look at the urban contexts of tough social conflicts (for instance, at what Scott Bollens defines as "polarized" or "divided cities"3) for planning to disclose all its non- neutrality.

this is precisely the case with Jerusalem, where planning is one of the privileged tools of a "low intensity war,"4 which combines the "dramatic violence of some events, really easy to be remembered because of the mass media interest (bombs, killings, missiles and bulldozers) ... with slower and more consequential events (the construction of buildings, streets, tunnels) no less violent or destructive."5 the israeli- Palestinian conflict becomes, within the holy City, "a war of cement and stone."6 the reason is quite clear: anyone who can physically dominate Jerusalem can decide the destiny of the city.7 to this end, the design and organization of space play a key role, and planning is the tool for achieving specific political aims.

the role of urban policies in the israeli-Palestinian conflict over Jerusalem has been well analysed by many scholars. however, the Jerusalem master Plan has not yet been analysed with reference to the conflict. the aim of this paper is to present such an analysis. the Jerusalem master Plan is actually a very significant document: it is the first comprehensive plan for the "whole" city (both West and East Jerusalem) since israel occupied the Eastern part of the city in 1967. For the first time, the comprehensive and detailed spatial vision of Jerusalem in the twenty-first century that the israeli authorities aim to realize is clearly expressed in an official document.

The Ultimate Aim of Israeli Urban Policies in Jerusalem

as is well known, israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 during the Six-day War and in 1980 declared the whole city, both the western part and the eastern occupied part, to be the "eternal and united" capital of the Jewish State. nonetheless, the international community has never recognized israel's annexation of East Jerusalem,8 and Palestinians still claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. this is the reason why the main israeli effort since the 1967 annexation has been to strengthen de facto its control over the whole city; the aim being to create "urban facts" which would make any future division of the city practically impossible. as michael romann and alex Weingrod state, "the overall [israeli] policy had as its main axiom the prevention of any possible future attempts to again divide the city or to cut off the occupied East Jerusalem territory from sovereign israeli control. …

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