Promoters to Submit Cable Car Plan for the Old City
Following the government’s decisions to promote the construction of a cable car system from West Jerusalem to the Silwan neighborhood in East Jerusalem, the promoters will soon submit the plan to the relevant building committee. The date of submission is unknown and depends on municipal and national political considerations.
The plan to build a cable car system between West and East Jerusalem is a government initiative. The cable car will connect West Jerusalem with Mount Zion and from there will continue to the Kedem compound at the entrance to the Silwan neighborhood. As previously reported, the plan will be promoted in an exceptional manner by the National Infrastructure Committee (NIC). The plan is an initiative of the Ministry of Tourism and is promoted by the Jerusalem Development Authority (JDA), a joint government municipal company that was appointed as the promoter of the project. The Elad foundation has a vested interest in promoting the plan, since in its initial stage the final station of the cable car will be the Kedem compound, a tourism center that Elad plans to establish at the entrance to Silwan and opposite the walls of the Old City.
Facts about the Project
- The National Infrastructure Committee (NIC): The cable car system is promoted by the Government of Israel as a tourist project of national priority. It is promoted via the National Infrastructure Committee, thereby bypassing the local and regional planning committees. The process of filing objections to the plan is therefore shortened, and moreover the NIC has broad authority to reject objections. The High Court of Justice recently rejected residents’ opposition to a plan that was promoted by the Planning Committee for Preferred Housing Units, a committee similar to the NIC, which deals with housing solutions. The residents’ claim, which stated that the construction will damage hundreds of dunams that have been used for agriculture for decades, was rejected. The High Court of Justice argued that the committee has the power to confiscate agricultural lands for residential purposes.
- A plan for tourism, not transportation: Although the entrepreneurs present the project as a transportation solution to the Western Wall and as a means of reducing traffic jams, the cable car is promoted as a tourist project and is not related to the Ministry of Transportation. This means that the cable car is neither part of the urban transit system plan, nor will its use alter the existing transit system. As of today, there is no official transit plan for transporting tourists or Jewish worshipers to and from the cable car stations, and the cost of riding the cable car will not be subsidized as public transportation. It is likely that a cable car ride will be more expensive than a bus ride. Therefore, the ultra-Orthodox, large families, and public transportation users who are the supposed beneficiaries of project will not necessarily use the cable car.
Where do things stand?
The Jerusalem Development Authority (JDA), the promoter of the project on behalf of the government, is currently working on the final stages of the plan, which it claims it will be submitted in the coming weeks. This schedule is in line with the discussion that took place at the National Infrastructure Committee in March 2018. At that time, the developers promised that a detailed plan would be ready by October-November. Despite the entrepreneurs’ claims, there is no way of knowing if they will meet the timetable. In addition, in our assessment, the date of submission also depends on municipal and national political considerations.
Minister Ze’ev Elkin, holder of the Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage office in the Israeli Cabinet, is running for mayor of Jerusalem. Elkin has an electoral interest in promoting the cable car. It is unclear whether electoral considerations will lead him to advance the plan’s submission before or after the elections (assuming he wins). On the other hand, if elections for the next Knesset are held, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin may want to advance the project before the elections.