Brothers seek to develop Jerusalem-Bethlehem land

Daniel Cohen: They're trying to force us into a political game that doesn’t interest us at all.

"Globes" reveals the next real estate development that could ignite the region. Two little-known businessmen, brothers Benjamin and Daniel Cohen, have, over the past 26 years, bought thousands of acres of land along the border of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. In a few months, they will file a building plan for the area known, as Givat Yael, to the Jerusalem Regional Planning and Building Commission. Construction in this area means expanding the borders of greater Jerusalem.

Daniel Cohen is a member of the Hapoel Jerusalem Football Club management committee and a jeweler. He decided to disclose the plan to "Globes", for the first time, partly in order to divert attention from his man in the field, Meir Davidson, a former activist in Ateret Cohanim, the non-profit organization that buys up properties in East Jerusalem. Cohen said that the land was bought using money from a family inheritance. "There is no money from the NPO involved, nor from any tycoon with a political interest," he said.

The Cohens are collaborating with Kim Lustigman Development and Building Ltd., which is a strategic partner in the project to build 12,000 housing units on the hill. Part of the area is in the jurisdiction of the Jerusalem Municipality, and part is in Judea and Samaria. Daniel Cohen considers the land purchased as the last remaining land reserves for construction in Jerusalem in the aftermath of the collapse of the Safdie plan for western Jerusalem. He believes that he will be able to get the land rezoned from its current designation as open space.

"We believe that 20,000 housing units will be needed in Jerusalem over the next ten years," says Cohen. "I'm not a megalomaniac, I don’t imagine that we'll build everything. We'll get 1,000 housing units approved initially, and then we'll see. This is a modular plan. We're not now working on the area in Judea and Samaria."

The developers do not deny that the project is supported by the Ministry of Interior and the Jerusalem Municipality, which are working behind the scenes to get the project approved. Cohen declines to comment on the political ramifications of building in the area. "They're trying to force us into a political game that doesn’t interest us at all," he says.

"I'm purely a businessman, and I'm not ashamed to say that what interests me is to make a profit on the money here. For 26 years, my brother and I have been eating dirt here, and I'll be happy if this finally turns us into wealthy men."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on November 12, 2009

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2009

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