The realities of East Jerusalem and the great difference in quality of life between the eastern and western parts of the city are well known and have been written about extensively. The planning and construction policy is undoubtedly one of the most acute issues in East Jerusalem. This policy has severe ramifications at the individual level: Thousands of homes have been demolished in recent years and thousands more are in danger of demolition.
The research group consists of academics in the disciplines of law, planning, and sociology, as well as activists who are experts on Jerusalem. The group’s uniqueness lies in its composition: It includes both Israeli and Palestinian professionals seeking to explore together the future of the planning and construction policy in the city. The group will examine various aspects of the issue and will propose alternatives for dealing creatively with the crisis in this field. Every alternative will be considered along parameters that take into account the legal, social, cultural, urban-geographical, and political aspects.
The group will deal with the question of why planning and construction is so problematic. Are there municipal reasons for this, or are the residents, perhaps, facing deeper—structural and cultural—obstacles that are blocking every possibility of their acting in accordance with the law? And if this is the case, is it possible to find a way to adapt the legal system to the unique needs of the residents of East Jerusalem? Are the authorities indeed obligated to enforce the law despite the heavy cost in human rights?
The group’s aim is to choose the alternative best able to bring about change in the way in which the municipal planning authorities relate to this issue—through legislation, regulations, liberal interpretation of existing laws, or any other relevant means. Despite the focus on East Jerusalem and the problems that are unique to the city and the Palestinian residents’ status, this topic reaches beyond the boundaries of the city, and the group’s work and conclusions can serve as a model in similar situations elsewhere.