Government Meeting on Jerusalem Day: Strengthening the Settlements in the Historic Basin, State-Funded Excavations, and Promotion of Cable Car Project as “National Priority”
At a government meeting held on Sunday, May 13, it was decided to finance and expand archaeological-tourist development in Silwan, the Old City, and the Mount of Olives area. This year, as in previous years, the Israeli government is allocating hundreds of millions of shekels to changing the face of the historic basin.
There are three government decisions relating to the historic basin of Jerusalem:
- The proposal to develop and promote the area of the Old City basin is a continuation of a series of decisions beginning in 2005 to allocate hundreds of millions of shekels for promoting transportation, the economy, and governance in Jerusalem. More than 1 billion NIS was allocated to the project between 2005 and 2019, and now, the government has decided to allocate an additional 350 million NIS. Responsibility for overseeing the budget will be entrusted to the Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Ze’ev Elkin, Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin, and the Jerusalem Municipality.
- The national plan for unearthing ancient Jerusalem. The government has budgeted 47 million NIS for archaeological excavations in Silwan over the next two years. 23.5 million NIS will be allocated to the excavations in 2018 and a similar sum in 2019. The purpose of the plan is to connect Silwan / the City of David to sites within the walls of the Old City and to continue developing these sites in the spirit of the religious and national views of the settlers and the government. The budget will be transferred to the Israel Antiquities Authority, which will carry out the excavations in cooperation with the Elad Association. As we have already discussed in prior publications, this is a significant budgetary addition to the excavation project of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Elad, and we believe that most of the budget will be used to dig tunnels and underground spaces.
- Promoting a tourist cable car to the area of ancient Jerusalem. The government approved a budget of 200 million NIS for the years 2018-2020 to promote the cable car project. The Jerusalem Development Authority, which is responsible for implementing the project, has stated that the cost of building the cable car is 200 million NIS, and therefore, it appears that the government has approved the earmarked amount for covering this project.
These decisions constitute the state’s commitment to financing and promoting the settlers’ plan in Silwan and in the historic basin, constituting an escalation in the use of archaeology and tourism for political purposes: The scope of the projects and the budgets allocated for their implementation are unprecedented. It appears that the Israeli government is no longer maintaining the pretense of distinguishing between its own actions and those of the settlers.