Modern History of East Jerusalem
Historically, Jerusalem has been the battleground of conflict for centuries. The city has been ruled, besieged, conquered, destroyed, and rebuilt by different kingdoms and governments. In modern times, Jerusalem has been the epicenter of conflict between Arabs and Jews.
The United Nations Partition Plan of 1947 was not accepted by Palestinian leaders or any Arab nation. In 1948, Israel declared its independence and war broke out with all the surrounding countries. When the war ended, Jerusalem became a divided city, with Israel controlling West Jerusalem and Jordan controlling East Jerusalem; civilians on both sides became displaced.
During the Six Day War in 1967, Israel captured the Jordanian-controlled areas of Jerusalem, and annexed an area of approximately 71 km2 which included not just city environs, but 28 Palestinian villages as well. The government declared the entire expanded city as its “undivided” “eternal” capital. This unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem was formalized into Israeli law in 1980 when the Knesset passed the Jerusalem Law. The United Nations and virtually all governments in the world consider Israel’s annexation and occupation of East Jerusalem as illegal under international law.
Planning, Property and Permits
Rules governing urban planning, property and permission to build in Jerusalem have favored Jewish residents and discriminated against Arabs. Since 1967, Israel has expropriated tens of thousands of dunams of land from Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. According to the human rights organization Ir Amim, “The Ministry of Housing has planned and built nearly 50,000 housing units on these lands, and municipal planning institutions have advanced the establishment of new neighborhoods, which today house approximately 190,000 people, nearly all of them Jewish.”1
About a third of the land annexed to Jerusalem was expropriated for building Jewish neighborhoods and settlements. Building and zoning regulations have been manipulated so that only 13% of the land annexed to Jerusalem was zoned for Palestinian construction. A trend emerged for the government to designate as much of the open space left in the heart of Palestinian East Jerusalem as national parks. This strategy has limited the growth and development of Palestinian residential areas. In total, approximately 22% of the land annexed in East Jerusalem has been zoned as green areas or for public infrastructure. The rest of the land in East Jerusalem, covering about a third of the area, remains unplanned.2
According to Bimkom, an organization of Israeli planning professionals for planning rights:
The building restrictions have led to a large number of residents in search of housing solutions leaving the municipal area of Jerusalem (despite the high cost this option entails for them*). The vast majority that has remained in Jerusalem is forced to contend with plans that do not allow for development and do not address their residential and other basic needs. Due to the impossibility for these residents to build legally, many have resorted to build without a permit and without any reference to statutory plans. It is estimated that about 20,000 housing units have been built spontaneously over the years without permits.3
*Palestinian residents who leave Jerusalem lose their right to residence in Jerusalem and other social rights (e.g. access to public services and welfare benefits).
Spontaneous building causes neighborhoods immediate and future problems with population density, public safety, and public works infrastructure. In response to this unauthorized Palestinian construction, the government demolishes homes and levies heavy fines. The Jerusalem Municipality demolishes about 100 houses each year, leaving hundreds of people homeless and wracked with debt.
Read More - Planning in Jerusalem: The Implications of the New Outline Plan of Jerusalem for Palestinian Neighborhoods, Bimkom, December 2009