On February 13, 2012, the Jerusalem Building and Planning District Committee held a discussion on the issue of the construction of a four-story structure on the area known as the Givati Parking Lot in the village of Silwan. Also at the beginning of February, media reports were released about the submission of the building plan for “Beit Haliba”—a three-story building on the Western Wall plaza. On the surface, there is no direct connection between the two building projects (the construction in the Givati Parking Lot is being promoted by Elad, the private settler organization focused on promoting Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem; while “Beit Haliba” is an initiative of the Western Wall Heritage Fund, a governmental organization under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister’s office). However, if one looks more closely at the two plans, one can discern a similar modus operandi for the procurement and preparation of the areas for construction. It is apparently not by chance that the two plans are being presented to the committee at virtually the same time.
In this document we examine the significance of the archeological excavations that were conducted before presenting the plans to the construction committees, and the ways in which these excavations have in fact furthered the construction plans. In both cases, before the beginning of excavations, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) agreed to conduct excavations in order to enable eventual construction on the sites. To our understanding, the archeological excavations served as a central factor in the preparation of the area for construction: physically, the salvage excavations help prepare the foundations for construction in the area; and from a public relations perspective, the excavations served to garner public support and interest through the ostensibly disinterested and non-political scientific activity of the archeological excavation.