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Throwing Another East Jerusalem Wrench into the Works: Final Approval of Plan for Mughrabi Gate Ramp

Special to APN by Daniel Seidemann and Lara Friedman

Peace Now's brilliant Hagit Ofran breaks the news today that on 10/31/10 the government of Israel took the final step in approving the extremely controversial plan for the new Mughrabi Gate ramp (Town Planning Scheme 12472).  That step consisted of the publication of the plan in Haaretz (Hebrew print edition - a pdf view of the publication posted by Hagit can be seen/downloaded here.)

In the absence of further legal action (the prospects of which are slim to none, as are the chances of a temporary injunction) this step constitutes final approval.  This means that a building permit can be issued, and construction can thereafter commence, as early as 15 days from this publication.

Plans to rebuild, revamp, and expand the Mughrabi Gate ramp have been controversial from the start.  In February 2007 we wrote a backgrounder on the issue, which is still relevant today.  Collected articles from that period, when the controversy was at its height, are available here.

It is anticipated that the plan, as approved, incorporates changes made by the Regional Planning Committee and the District Court.  This modified design is expected to include: (a) cancellation of plans for a synagogue for women in the remains below the ramp; (b) preservation of archeological artifacts of all periods, and (c) no expansion of the prayer area of the Western Wall Plaza for woman at the expense of the ramp area. Subject to these changes, the original design (after it was amended in 2007 and as it was deposited for public review) is expected to remain unchanged.

A few key points need to be emphasized here:

  • The publication of TPS 12472 could not have taken place without Netanyahu's advance knowledge and consent.
  • Even with the expected changes to TPS 12472, the plan is still rejected by Jordan, the Palestinians and UNESCO.
  • In the absence of coordination with the Waqf and the Jordanians, commencement of actual construction at the Mughrabi Gate - which could take place within a few weeks - could have a highly detrimental impact on the prospects for resuming negotiations.

As Hagit notes in her post, "This approval...is yet another provocation of the Netanyahu Government. Instead of coordinating the works and achieving the agreement of all of the relevant parties, the Israeli government is causing another rise in the tensions in East Jerusalem and is putting another obstacle for the progress of the peace process."  

We concur.