Israeli soldiers ride on top of a mobile artillery vehicle
Israeli soldiers ride on top of a mobile artillery vehicle in the Golan Heights in September 2012. Israeli plans to build a military academy on the Mount of Olives in annexed east Jerusalem have been deposited for approval, taking the project a step forward, the Peace Now settlement watchdog said on Saturday. © Jack Guez - AFP/File
Israeli soldiers ride on top of a mobile artillery vehicle
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AFP
Last updated: October 21, 2012

Israel advances plans for military academy on Mount of Olives

Israeli plans to build a military academy on the Mount of Olives in annexed east Jerusalem have been deposited for approval, taking the project a step forward, the Peace Now settlement watchdog said on Saturday.

"In the last few days, ads were hung up on the Mount of Olives in east Jerusalem announcing the depositing of plan no. 51870 for the construction of an Israeli military college," Peace Now's Hagit Ofran wrote on her blog.

The eight-storey structure, which would be used as an academy for training senior commanders in the military and the security forces, would overlook Jerusalem's Old City, she wrote.

It was the second time in three days that Israel has advanced plans for construction in the city's annexed eastern sector.

The public now has 60 days to file any objections to or reservations about the plan, after which a committee will review the remarks then approve the plan, she wrote.

The move would see construction of a structure covering an area of 41,480 square metres in "one of the most sensitive and disputed areas in Jerusalem," Ofran wrote, describing the move as "provocative."

The plans passed an earlier stage of approval by an interior ministry committee in July.

Contacted by AFP, a defence ministry spokesman said the move was part of a government decision to relocate military colleges from the centre of the country to "priority areas."

"The whole project is located within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem... and not in the heart of an area inhabited by Palestinians," he said.

Several important churches are located on the Mount of Olives, which holds religious significance for Christians who believe it was the site where Jesus was arrested before his crucifixion, and from which he later ascended to heaven following the resurrection.

It also holds religious significance for Jews, who believe the Messiah will arrive there.

"The Mount of Olives is under dispute between us and the Palestinians, and we will have to solve this dispute only through an agreement," Ofran said. "Bringing the military academy to this spot is quite insensitive and if I may add, not so smart, of our government."

Israel considers both west and east Jerusalem to be its "eternal, indivisible" capital, and does not view construction in the eastern sector as settlement activity.

The Palestinians, however, believe east Jerusalem should be the capital of their future state and are fiercely opposed to the extension of Israeli control over the sector.

Earlier this week, an interior ministry committee granted final approval to a plan for 800 homes on the western flanks of the settlement neighbourhood of Gilo in east Jerusalem, in a move condemned by the Palestinians and the European Union.

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