New IDF military college to move to east Jerusalem

Interior Ministry approves National Defense College plan to build structure on Mount of Olives; Peace Now slams move as “crazy.”



The Interior Ministry on Monday gave its initial approval for a new military college in east Jerusalem, which will be located on the Mount of Olives. The 42,000 square meter structure of the new National Defense College is planned for an open area between the Mount of Olives and Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus.

IDF soldiers view J'lem from Mt. of Olives - Photo: Darren Whiteside / Reuters

IDF soldiers view J'lem from Mt. of Olives - Photo: Darren Whiteside/Reuters

Left-wing groups slammed the approval. “This is a crazy plan to build a military college in one of the most sensitive areas in dispute,” said Hagit Ofran of Peace Now, who oversees the Settlement Watch Division. “This will inevitably harm the status of the state ofIsrael and the IDF in the world… People in the world respect our army as part of our sovereignty, but to put this is a very sensitive area, you’re inviting them to boycott the Israeli army,” she said.

The area was originally earmarked for the Supreme Court, which was eventually built in the Government Quarter near downtown Jerusalem. The college was touted in the past by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, as a way to attract young, working people to the city, a sentiment echoed by Interior Ministry spokesman Efrat Orbach. She added that the location was chosen due to its proximity to Hebrew University, allowing soldiers to take advantage of university courses during their studies.

The project will be built partially above ground and partially below ground. Dalit Zilber, the chairwoman of the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee under the auspices of the Interior Ministry, said the building “presented modest and appropriate aspects for the view of the area as well as met the pragmatic needs of the college,” in a statement released by the Interior Ministry.

The National Defense College is currently located at the Glilot junction in Herziliya, next to the central military intelligence base, though there has been talk of moving the project to Jerusalem for the past several years. On Monday, the Interior Ministry approved the project for deposit. The project will now be open for public opposition, before receiving final approval from the Interior Ministry. The approval process could take as little as a year, but will most likely take a number of years.

According to Ofran, part of the college will be in the “Hebrew University enclave” and is considered less contentious. Land claims are notoriously complicated in the area around Mount Scopus, because the area remained an Israeli enclave between 1948 and 1967.

The area has a “second Green Line,” which basically encircles the Hebrew University campus. But the planned military campus also includes parts of Wadi Joz, an Arab neighborhood. “This is going to be a problem even for those who support Israel,” she said.

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