Open access peer-reviewed chapter

Planning, Power, and Politics (3P): Critical Review of the Hidden Role of Spatial Planning in Conflict Areas

Written By

Raed Najjar

Submitted: March 3rd, 2018 Reviewed: May 17th, 2018 Published: March 13th, 2019

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.78779

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This chapter discusses theoretical reviews about urban space theory, the paradoxical roles of spatial planning, and introduces a revolutionary definition for sustainability, namely, the four-dimensional spatial sustainability (4DSS) model. Interestingly, the empirical section in this chapter underlines the links that emerge when addressing spatial critical transformations accorded by interconnected spatial relations when attached to conflict areas, mainly: planning, power, and politics, the (3P) concept. Theories pertaining to spatial planning and sustainable development have substantially evolved during the past century. However, both of these themes still remain underestimated and require further investigation when exploring conflict regions. Spatial planning in conflict zones requires forming fast-changing spatial policies accompanying the creation of irreversibly altered urban fabrics that generate in many cases drastic challenges for inhabitants, especially for the indigenous residents when considered a minority group. Therefore, clarifying the relationships between the 3P and 4DSS is a central issue in this chapter. Understanding these relationships reveals the range of political influence upon the role of planning and its objectives. In Jerusalem, the aforementioned interrelationships have generated a deeply divided city, where dramatic spatial and demographic changes have adversely affected the lives of Palestinians, threatening their presence and, by consequence, their identity.


  • space
  • spatial planning
  • sustainability
  • four-dimensional spatial sustainability (4DSS)
  • planning
  • power
  • and politics (3P)
  • regressive planning
  • progressive planning
  • conflict area
  • Jerusalem

1. Introduction

The philosophy of understanding space in terms of the temporal dimension correlates with the actions or activities within a space transforming them into places and moments. In that sense, relationships give rise to order. Hence, the temporal relations give rise to a temporal order and the spatial relations to a spatial order. What’s more, it is not easy to make a plausible preliminary list of basic spatial relationships in terms of its designated entities [1]. Few concepts are more crucial to understand our world today than power, especially when politics and planning emerge as key spatial determinants in conflict affected areas, thus the spatial identifications shall ultimately be intensified.

Arguments concerning the theory of space under conflict have reappeared in the agenda of many scholars and theorists in recent years. Conflict in its broad definition means a struggle or clash between opposing forces, armed aggression, widespread violence, and widespread human rights abuses. It represents a state of opposition between ideas and interests. Spatially, “conflict areas” are zones where “conflict” is prevalent. The area may be a region, a country, an area within a country, or an area that crosses one or more country boundaries. In the context of conflict areas, urban fabric is in a continuous process of change. Immigrants cluster together and mix with others; ethnic and racial groups are segregated in ghettos and slums, and the nonmarginalized are able to displace to more habitable places; poor families are forced to look for other quarters, because of rabid urban restructuring; and classy housings are developed on the most attractive spaces, in order to attract the rich. Thus, spaces are divided. Likewise, separated neighborhoods indicate the presence of different urban fabrics within a city. These all have different features; they may be modern or undeveloped, secured or risky, deprived or privileged, clean or dirty, old or new, or contrasted on countless other aspects. Remarkably, there is a certain contrast in these spaces: between luxurious and marginalized zones and between places where only those wealthy can afford to live and places where the deprived are forced to live because of the lack of alternatives elsewhere [2]. These cities are described as divided cities, dual cities, polarized cities, fragmented cities, and partitioned cities [3].

The relationship between division and planning is prominent, but questionable. In contested spaces, deliberate and discriminatory actions against the weaker population occur. As such, planning in many cases is inequitable, implicitly biased and reflects not what it promises to be. It is used as a control tool over the marginal group, rather than a tool for positive change. Hence, in conflict areas, urban planning has to be re-conceptualized to go beyond the narrow framework of physical land use planning. Therefore, the 3P concept [planning, power, and politics] can help to address this as it is a dynamic process that underpins the ambiguity of the spatial modality created in conflict areas and correlates that concept with a pertinent case study: Jerusalem. During the last decades, many conflict cities witnessed hypersegregation, ethnic separation, and persistent racial discrimination, as what has been seen in Belfast, Nicosia, Beirut, and Mostar. However, the case of Jerusalem is more passionate, as it presents the case of deeply divided city due to the intensity of the ethnic conflict it has faced for more than 70 years, and eventually, its perception as a frontier city [4]. And so, the urgent need to assess and reread the space in Jerusalem in the context of changing socio-political power arises. Consequently, it is important to scrutinize such influence upon East Jerusalem’s (EJ) urban space after the Israeli occupation of 1967 and to explore this interaction between planning and politics, where the latter has strongly and directly influenced the former.


2. Space, a conflictual concept

Transformation of a given status is not, unquestionably, one of the core themes of philosophy. The abstract character of the philosophical work in the past and present is rooted in the social conditions of existence. Social struggles rage when various socio-political dimensions merge together. Transformation of space produces tension between power and different social strata forming what is known as the battle over performance space [5]. Presentations of space outline a complex set of variables and power and politics surface as important indicators. The role of space in the producing cultural and political power has been largely ignored in cultural theory and criticism. Focusing on power as a spatial presentation helps researchers to precisely theorize the manifold social reproduction processes [6].

Space is classified into two main categories: mental space (experiential) and physical space (existential). Experiential space, in a merely metamorphic sense, refers to a mental image or nonphysical representation for time or duration, area or extension. Whereas, existential space has three dimensions considered as a volume not an area. According to many, this is illusionary. Invoking space as a metaphor rather than a physical “quantifiable” subject is problematic, because invocations of space habitually adopt space as known, specified, and unproblematic [7]. Space is exponentially correlated to social relations and is the convenient medium of power that is socially constituted through material relationships that enable an explicit political interaction. The historic spatial relationship of powers defines history as pure reflection of spaces which evidently would be the history of power [8]. The basic explanation of power represents influence, forte, movement, and strength. In this regard, space can be expressed as an active, nonstatic or limited object; it is rather a result of relations that are themselves dynamic and continuously changing [9].

Instability addresses, implicitly, a conflict of powers regardless of their form, be it physical, natural, political, or social for example. Spatial configurations thus constitute unequal relations and, therefore, the emergence of differences and the quest for power. That “mess” of relations is useful for theorizing the “unbalanced powers” and “unequal relations” of a space in terms of social complexity (classes, races, segregation, etc.). Therefore, terms differentiating strong and weak powers, such as dominant and marginal relations, respectively, arise. Hence, the “differences” emerging out of spatial relationships are addressed in social and the cultural theory [10]. The spatiality of powers (re)-constitutes our social references and identities. Space and spatial relations should be considered as active components in the unequal and heterogeneous production and distribution of social references, politics, and powers, which altogether highlight place configurations.

For a better interpretation of the socio-spatial relationships between space and place, it is important to refuse considering the framework of social identities as the sole background against which all other investigations of social or cultural relations occur. This is key as social markers are constantly varying parameters, and they are also continually altered, disputed, and reproduced. Space comprises an active and constantly changing site of power; however, the theory of “politics of location” does not critically capture that phenomenon [6].

Recalling the meaning of space highlights the necessity to underline the changing characteristics of space in social and physical aspects. To exemplify this abstract concept, space representation helps clarify this subject. Capturing a physical presentation of space, such as the city, seamlessly outlines how space is a lively non-static mass, rather a dynamic organism. The philosophical interpretation of the city concept asserts the need to understand the relationships carried out within this “closed container” before analyzing its components, and to accept that “the city” is not merely a container. Another pertinent explanation introduces the city as a place where there is still a recognizable concentrated, teeming, dynamic expression of urbanism. It is a place that becomes very enjoyable for its inhabitants and lots of visitors every year [11]. In theory, the fundamental meaning of space or place is a relative norm, which is highly correlated to social and cultural concepts; it depends on the cognitive images of a place conceived by the manifold experiences and backgrounds of people.

The interest in place and space has significantly grown during the last century; it is reflected by the development of the so-called new regional geography [12]. In consequence, presentations of space and the development of place related themes became far sighted during the 1980s and repeated invocations about spatial perspectives within the geographical imagination. The dialectic mode of thinking facilitates understanding the paradoxical nature of space. The corner stone of dialectics attempts to philosophize what the world is without detaching its components for the purpose of analysis and presentation [13]. Dialectical reflections commonly address the question of change regarding various spatial questions: interrelationships, interconnections and interactions, processes, activities, flows, relations, and eventually contradiction. Accordingly, dialecticians often conceptualize “dynamism” as the basic framework to all matter and thus “stability” is an irrelevant status that necessitates explanation.

Philosopher Sir Isaac Newton elaborated that space is absolute, proper to itself, and independent of the objects it contains. According to the dialectical mode of argumentation, the complex composition of space—notably spatial relations, power, politics, productions, and phenomena—is conceived just as a single entity, that is to say with the quality of wholeness. Wholeness (totality) could be demonstrated as “the way the whole is present through the internal relations of each of its parts” [14]. Although it is not possible to comprehend multiple interrelated elements of a whole without understanding how the elements relate to each other within this whole, totality is signified in its wholeness as: “a need to look on the world as an undivided whole” [15]. However, other philosophical approaches oppose dialectical thinking and contrast obviously with the notions of wholeness, considering separate objects by splitting thoughts and problems into parts and in rearranging these in their rational order. This mode of argumentation represents the Cartesian method, which is a scientific philosophy that explores the reality via mechanical and mathematical representations, and also perceived to be merely as the “method of doubt” [16]. From this regard, space could be perceived as being autonomous or a passive empty container independent of physical characteristics [17]. Wholeness, as such, amounts to nothing more than the sum of the parts. Conversely, dialecticians reject this approach of detaching the diverse features of reality. Instead, the dialectical philosophy confirms the unity of knowledge and the total character of reality. Space, therefore, in this logic is a unity containing within itself different aspects.

Needless to say, the border line between the total and the part is undetectable. Not only is the concrete character of space and place in terms of their real ontological status, therefore, debatable, but also their distinction depending on the comprehensive integration for grasping the interconnected spatial relationships, social, power, politics, and processes among them. Indeed, critical philosophy highlights politics, among the heterogeneous and conflictual elements of space as an internal parameter and major player; thus the overall production process of space and place is genuinely a political event [18]. This conclusion is coherent with the concrete foundation of dialectics: the contradiction. Spatial contradictions of urban spaces born of political conflicts are played out between social benefits, economic powers, and political forces, which express themselves in place, an element of space. Yet, dialectically, these elements are divergent components of the same unity; however, the significance of these qualitative aspects of place and how they, in turn, shape space, cannot be downplayed.


3. Sustainability: a new revolutionary definition

Rethinking the traditional definition of sustainability, especially during the recurrent global and regional challenges—notably massive immigration, urban shrinkage, dissolving heritage, climate change, poverty, and injustice, etc.—has become more critical and progressively urgent. Spatial development could be addressed as a normative, but challenging, response to community and human needs. However, troubling debates have been gaining ground and therefore bringing attention to the multidimensional consequences presented during historical development of modern society. The Industrial Revolution witnessed rapid transformation in both the norms of knowledge and community urban growth patterns. Unfortunately, the fast mode of production and unregulated urban growth resulted, in many cases, in social degradation, poor living conditions, and environmental concerns [19]. Reconsidering the norms of urban growth and the models of development thus became an urgent issue. Consequently, the science of sustainability has shown up introducing significant challenges for planners and policy makers as well. Sustainable development is, therefore, a major concern with reference to the crucial need to protect the global environment while attaining a better life for people. The concept of sustainability continues to attract more attention; thus, sustainable development is presented in more than two hundred definitions, while featured on more than 8 million web pages and the number keeps rising [20].

Sustainable development is thoroughly tied to the environmental concerns that continue to introduce changes in knowledge and the sciences. The world has changed rapidly due to the conception of sustainability; however, most of the challenges that gave impulse to the introduction of the concept have not yet been solved. On contrary, the irreversible loss of natural resources, rapid depletion of certain energy resources, troubling climate change, and social injustices are observed. Originally, the interest about sustainability intensified in the 1980s. In 1987, the classical definition of sustainable development was drafted in “Brundtland Report - Our Common Future” as the paths of human progress that meet the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The Brundtland Report incorporated components of sustainability within the economic and political context of international development, as well as combining ethical norms of welfare, democracy, and environment [21]. Sustainability science has revealed advanced development over the last decade [22]. It explores long-term relationships and implications between large-scale socioeconomic and ecologic systems, the complex restructuring processes lead to degradation of these systems, and probable associated risks to human well-being. Hence, sustainability probes the natural and social systems, questioning their interactions, most notably achieving needs’ balance of present and future generations while improving well fare and preserving the planet life support systems.

The interdisciplinary mode of thinking has recently succeeded in linking the traditionally separate intellectual fields of critical social theory and environmental science. However, responses to meet the increasing demands of a growing population in an interconnected but unequal world have undermined the earth’s essential life-support systems. Sustainability is therefore a concept that provides new visions for the national and international development and formulates new solutions for the recurrent socioeconomic needs. Nevertheless, the world’s present development path is not sustainable [20]. The ecological transformations accompanied by the development processes are considered chief global challenge along with the intense alterations underway in socioeconomic and cultural life. Key indications of such consequences are global climate warming, urban sprawls, degradation of biological diversity, deprivation and increase in poverty levels, and the excessive exploitation of resources with unmatched rates of pollution [23]. In this context, the current concept of sustainability is vulnerable to the same criticism of the vague idealism proffered against comprehensive planning [24].

The “classical” definition of sustainability, in that context, could be conceived as a guiding tool that connects the “present” of a spatially referenced activity into a “future” projected and thus desired, status. Still, classical sustainability does not cover the past, in particular, within its temporal analysis. Moreover, it could be debated that the aforementioned classical definitions for sustainability in both, be it theory-driven or action-driven directions, neither integrate nor incorporate the cultural and historical aspects of space and place within the framework of the development process. Thus, it is also arguable that adopting the “classical” norms of sustainability disregard the cultural identity and historical aspects and could, therefore, lead toward a critical cultural transformation, degradation, or even evanescence and disappearance.

To overcome the existing challenge and to recover that gap in the classical conception of sustainability, it is necessary to put forward a revolutionary model for spatial sustainability that not only conceives sustainability as a guidance tool aiming at steering the development wheel toward environmental protection, economic growth, and social equity but also at integrating the cultural-historical factors in a more holistic temporal analysis as well. In other words, this requires shifting the “classical sustainability” concept into a more comprehensive model, namely, the “four-dimensional” spatial sustainability (4DSS) presented in Figure 1. This adds a new comprehensive time-based dimension allowing the integration of the past of a referenced space by evaluating its cultural and historical identity and to assess the consequential cause-effect impacts of the projected, future development. Furthermore, considering the cultural-historic dimension within the development process enhances the integration toward a well-balanced time scale focusing on understanding a past-present trajectory before linking it into the future. Hence, the 4DSS considers the following four substantial dimensions for investigation and integration—social, environmental, economic, and cultural-historic—forming together the SEEC orbit of sustainability, centered by gravity zone of tension. In practice, considering the dynamic interactions while integrating these four-dimensional perspectives to ensure balanced spatial sustainability creates a “critical conflictual zone” centered in the core of the orbit of sustainability, the SEEC. The proposed 4DSS model aspires to offer a fascinating, holistic way of evading these conflicts highlighting the time-factor and the gravity scale, but they cannot be resolved so simply.

Figure 1.

The four-dimensional spatial sustainability (4DSS) model presenting the critical orbit of sustainability (SEEC) where tension zone located at center [author].


4. Spatial planning

In order to understand the notion of spatial planning, it would be useful to begin by understanding a definition of this term. A brief review of the literature pertaining to “planning” in terms of physical development would immediately reveal that the word has a wide variety of meanings. Gradually, the terms “urban and regional planning” or “town and country planning” and “city planning” as they are called in the UK and North America, respectively, are ideally represented by the term spatial planning. Spatial planning is not a static notion that presents a single concept, procedure, or tool; it is rather a well-structured mix of all that must be comprehensively functioned if desirable outcomes are to be achieved [25]. From this regard, the perception of spatial planning indicates the necessity for integrating several spatial sectorial policies in order to create positive synergies. The emerging compound nouns of planning have attracted academics to explore the meanings and semantics of those flexible names. For instance, the terms “land use planning,” “regional planning,” “town planning,” and “urban planning” are often used interchangeably, and in many cases will depend on the reference country, but do not always have the same meaning. In the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, the term “town planning” is common. Meanwhile, in the United States and Canada, the term “urban planning” is more familiar. However, in Europe, the preferred term is increasingly “spatial planning.” Spatial planning is perceived as going beyond traditional land use planning to bring together and integrate policies for the development and use of land with other policies and programs which influence the nature of places and how they function [20].

It could be argued that the definition of spatial planning depends on the basic historical and institutional differences between the various settings where planning is practiced. Hence, there are variances for the perception of planning according to the spatial reference that originates the definition [26]. Italian intellectuals, for instance, perceived “planning” as an element of the city seen as a work of art. Alternatively, the British have regularly concentrated on the regulation in different scales of physical development. Meanwhile, American researchers have often referred to planning as a loose concept, dealing essentially with public and private policy efforts. Generally, there are two major, but contradictory, definitions for planning, depending upon the aims and tools of planning, or in other words, based upon the “role” of planning. The concepts pertaining to the power of planning to act either as a progressive or as a regressive agent of change and the probability of using planning as a “control tool” instead of “reforming tool” principally upon ethnic minorities are briefly presented in the following sections.

4.1. Progressive planning

Planning, in its conventional sense, simply refers to the process of setting goals, developing strategies, and outlining activities and schedules to accomplish desired objectives [27]. The term progressive planning refers to that sort of planning that acts as a means of positive change to achieve more urban justice, economic growth, equity, and stability. Achieving these goals has proven very demanding. Specifically, after the early start of the Industrial Revolution, the world went through rapid transformation processes, moving from simple agricultural communities into massively urbanized ones. This quick transformation resulted, in many cases, in the emergence of unhealthy living conditions, social dilemmas, and environmental hazards. Accordingly, planning was born as a way to heal the ills of urbanization and then evolved into an organized field of human activity; thus it was normative reaction to the exigent of ameliorating the deteriorated living conditions [28]. This fundamental explanation of planning inspired urban planners to introduce “ideal” concepts such as utopianism, liberty and equity, economic reform, and improvement of living conditions. These basic thoughts formed the foundation of planning theories. Therefore, progressive planning has been conceived as a problem-solving activity that relates knowledge to action in different ways, and thus is optimally characterized as reformative norm [29]. Spatial planning represents the interrelationship between the concepts of space and place. It explores how such concepts reflect the shift in geographical thought to a dynamic, discontiguous, relational conceptualization of spatiality [30]. It is a multidisciplinary, hermeneutic discipline, which integrates the integration of many other disciplines in order to explain spaces and eventually to optimize strategic mechanisms in developing spaces toward a more sustainable and equitable living conditions [25].

4.2. Regressive planning

Regressive planning is a concept used for the cases in which planning is oriented to function as a “control tool” in order to achieve oppressive objectives. More specifically, regressive planning is utilized to serve a specific social stratum and neglect or even restrain the other strata. This sort of planning is critically practiced at places where there is conflict, political instability, or racial disputes. It presents a considerable degree of uncertainty and vagueness, therefore affecting its legitimacy, ability to create consensus, and sustainability in real contexts. Consequently, this widespread uncertainty of planning concepts continues to raise doubts regarding a presumed disciplinary status and even professional conception for planning and its expected, and in many cases, unpredictable roles.

From the viewpoint of physical development in conflict areas, the interactive power relationships clearly exist between contingent styles of planning and their institutional and cultural contexts which illustrate, to some extent, the differentiation in planning tools and the variety of outcomes [31]. Examining the theoretical and empirical studies regarding planning practices in different contexts could help clarifying a solid core of common trends and problems constituting a series of challenges, dilemmas, and limitations that are valid in different institutional, government, economic and administrative frameworks [32].

Understanding the context in which planning is transformed into what can be understood as “imperfect planning,” addresses substantial exploration of particular scopes that reveal how planning is used as a socio-graphical control tool. These scopes are four-fold [20]:

  • Territorial scope: It is also known as the spatial context and it reflects upon space, geography, time and people. It presents the territorial policies and ordinances utilized as a powerful tool of control over minorities, particularly in deeply divided societies, where ethnic groups often reside in their own regions.

  • Power relations and decision-making scope: This is also known as the methodological scope and it includes the statutory aspects that determine the formal relationship between the regime and the public. It is employed in order to marginalize specific groups, thus enhancing segregation and exclusion of ethnical or minority groups from the active and real participation in the process of decision-making.

  • Socioeconomic scope: This focuses on serving the economic interests of the dominant party and thereby contributes to create weaker groups of people who become more dependent on the dominant party, who in turn manipulates the regime to increase its influence and power.

  • Cultural scope: It deals with the influence and effect of planning on the multiple cultures and identities within a space. It is critically utilized through the planning strategies that are practiced by the dominant ethnic group who often aims to minimize and alienate the other ethnic cultures.


5. Conflict city of Jerusalem

Few cities evoke such a sharp and expressive response from so many people all over the world as does Jerusalem. Sacred to at least three major faiths—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—Jerusalem has been a source of inspiration to adherents of these religions for thousands of years [33]. Jerusalem has therefore been a focal point for world powers during many different eras as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2.

Historical powers that controlled Jerusalem before Ottomans [author].

Thus far, Jerusalem is considered a contested, frontier, polarized, and deeply divided city [4]. Until 1917, Jerusalem was an “Ottoman Province”. After WWI and in particular after the Battle of Jerusalem in December 1917, the British military captured Jerusalem city and considered it to be the capital of their Mandate in Palestine. The League of Nations, through its 1922 ratification of the Balfour Declaration, designated the United Kingdom to administer the Mandate for Palestine and help establish a Jewish state in Palestine [34]. During the successive three decades of the British Mandate (1917–1948), many areas in Jerusalem looked into the construction of new garden suburbs mainly in the northern-western direction. Then, at the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Jerusalem was divided for the first time in its history. The first spatial division of Jerusalem was set out by the Armistice Agreement of 1949 between Israel and Jordan cut through the center of the city creating the western and eastern parts from 1949 until 1967. During that time, West Jerusalem (WJ) was controlled by Israel, while EJ was controlled by Trans-Jordan. In 1949, Israel declared WJ as its capital.

The next dramatic moment, the 1967 Six-Day War, had dramatic consequences for what followed. Israel had, unilaterally, annexed 70.5 square kilometers of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) including EJ, which presents 6.5 square kilometers of the total. Israel’s domestic jurisdiction was extended to EJ through Amendment No. 11 of the 1967 Law and Administration Ordinance. The city’s illegal unification and its controversial status as the eternal capital of Israel were declared through the Basic Law in 1980. However, the status of United Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital has not been officially recognized by most of the international community, and nearly all countries maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv. However, in December 2017, the president of the US violated the UN resolutions and announced his controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital a political discourse that intensifies the tension rather enhances the peace process. Consequently, the UN General Assembly has decisively backed a resolution effectively calling on the US to withdraw its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and voted overwhelmingly to ask nations not to establish diplomatic missions in the historic city of Jerusalem. Consequently, the Assembly adopted the resolution “Status of Jerusalem,” by which it declared “null and void” any actions intended to alter Jerusalem’s character, status or demographic composition; and stated that any decisions and actions which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council [35]. These acts are contrary to international law. Israel, therefore, continues to violate international law, going against United Nations resolutions and agreements with Palestinians. Nonetheless, the Palestinians consider EJ as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Palestinians also refer to the UN Security Council’s Resolution 252, which considers as illegal the confiscation of land and other actions that tend to alter the legal status of Jerusalem. The status of Jerusalem and of its holy places remains contended up to date.

The wall encircling the Old City of Jerusalem, spatially defined the city during a long period. The geographical location of Jerusalem gives the city high geo-political and logistical values for its proximity to other regional capitals such as Amman (85 km), Damascus (290 km), Beirut (388 km), Cairo (528 km), and Baghdad (865 km). This centrality of that position accords Jerusalem with a unique logistical characteristic and is one of its distinguishing geo-political features. The present city of Jerusalem has grown beyond the Old City. After 1948, the city expanded toward the north and west where the Israeli government established modern and massive Jewish neighborhoods, whereas since the year 1967, Israel has concentrated its settlement construction works in the eastern part of the city, imposing therefore a new Jewish demography inside the Arabic Palestinian neighborhoods. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict over Jerusalem has been dramatically intensified since Israel occupied EJ in 1967. Jerusalem has been described as a deeply divided city due to the intensity and persistence of the ethnic conflict it has faced for decades [36]. Furthermore, the future perspectives of Jerusalem’s status are unpredictable due to the competition between the Palestinian and Jewish ethno-national identities [37]. Additionally, Jerusalem has also been characterized as a frontier city. Frontier cities are not only polarized along ethnic and ideological lines, but also are disputed foremost because of their location on fault lines between ethnic, religious or ideological entities [38]. Accordingly, given its spiritual, cultural, and historical values, Jerusalem outlines the core of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.


6. The planning context in Jerusalem

Jerusalem is a unique case study in terms of its historical development, especially during the last century when administrative control of the city changed several times. Within five decades (1917–1967), Jerusalem was controlled by four distinctive regimes, namely, Ottoman, British, Jordanian, and Israeli. During these radical administrative transformations, Jerusalem experienced rapid and varying development modes, which together have produced different challenges for its spatial characteristics, most particularly, in terms of the fast changing composition of the city population and urban fabric. Hence, the overall experience in the field of physical planning in Jerusalem offers unique and special aspects of profound interest for any scholar in urban planning, spatial socio-political relations, history, and human geography.

Today Jerusalem reflects two divergent images. The first is the timeless of one of the most historic cities in the world, while the other is that of one of the most modern cities in the world. These two contradictory images of the city are accompanied with by the heterogeneousness of the population, arriving mainly during the last century. The successive administrations in Jerusalem have created an extensive maze of rules and regulations, making the planning system complex and in many ways inefficient. The historical powers that had characterized the official planning system in Jerusalem since the Ottoman period are listed chronologically in Figure 3.

Figure 3.

Historical administrative development in Jerusalem since Ottoman rule [author].

The previous figure reflects the quick and dynamic transformations of the administrative authorities in Jerusalem. During the rule of each authority, Jerusalem was “spatially” defined in a completely unique and different way. The smallest delimitation was certainly during the Ottoman rule, in which Jerusalem was mainly developing within the boundaries of the Old City, which is accurately defined by its inspiring encircling wall. The Old City’s internal narrow roadway system that forms a maze of alleys and stairways hide a treasure of historical, cultural and spiritual heritage that reflects 5000 years of passionate history condensed in barely 1 square kilometer. The Old City greatly outlines the features of the fortified cities built during the reign of the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman, the Magnificent in the early sixteenth century. The political borders of the city then changed following the succession of the administrations, successive control power. The spatial frontier was first set outside of the walled area during the British Mandate and it continued to expand until the Israeli occupation, today encompassing three times more than its mandatory perimeter. Today the spatial appearance of the city reflects divided communities and segregated neighborhoods as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4.

The appearance of the divided city of Jerusalem, 2014 [3].

Israel occupied WJ after the termination of the British Mandate in 1948. In 1967, after the Six-Day War, Israel unlawfully annexed EJ to its territory. Since then, Jerusalem has been subjected to extensive Israeli planning policies aiming at expropriating more of the Palestinian lands and expelling native Palestinians from EJ. Hence, spatial planning in Jerusalem consists of two contradictory approaches based upon the ethnic and cultural identity of the residents:

  • The “Progressive planning paradigm” practiced in WJ and in the Jewish Settlements (JS) spread to EJ, which aims to improve the welfare of the Jewish people, who are now the dominant group, and their neighborhoods by creating more convenient, equitable, healthful, efficient, and attractive places for the existing and future Israeli Jewish generations.

  • The “Regressive planning paradigm” applied in the Palestinian Arab Neighborhoods in EJ limits the current and constrains the future development of the Palestinian residents who are now the minority group.

The dynamic interactions between planning, power, and politics (3P) have produced paradoxical spatial development patterns in Jerusalem as conceptualized in Figure 5. Accordingly, urban spaces in Jerusalem are produced in two contradictory modes of production. These unequal planning progressive/regressive modes reflect two-sided planning paradigms of the current Israeli policies. Although Israel declared the city of Jerusalem as a “unified” city in its political boundaries, it is still “separated” in terms of its spatial context and urban fabric. WJ presents an “active and dynamic” space for the Jewish residents, whereas the opposite is represented in EJ, namely, an “inactive and fragmented” space for the Palestinian residents. This contradiction in the city atmosphere is guided by the Israeli central government and thus maintained deliberately by the political power of the state.

Figure 5.

Spatial reflection of the 3P concept in Jerusalem [author].

The 3P concept demonstrates how the paradoxical Israeli spatial planning policies in Jerusalem formulate two contrasting societies within the same spatial governorate, namely, the Palestinian Arab community, and the Israeli Jewish society. However, the earlier deprived community suffers from fragmentation of its social and geographical contexts in contrast to the later society, which is well connected and integrated by spatial continuity and physical infrastructure. The Israeli Municipality of Jerusalem has intensified the complexity between the Palestinian urbanized neighborhoods in EJ, via a complex set of planning tools and regulations. Spatial regressive planning, besides mismanaged land use policies, is the chief challenge in that sense, as outlined in Figure 6, which presents the systematic unjust Palestinian land cut-off in the Israeli planning system. It is noteworthy mentioning that only 40% of the total area of EJ has valid approved plans. However, due to regressive Israeli sophisticated planning regulations, Palestinians in EJ are neither able to develop most of the planned areas for their critical needs nor the other unplanned zones. Approximately 34% of EJ is confiscated for Jewish settlements, while 26% is still unplanned zones. Accordingly, Palestinians living in EJ face serious challenges in finding enough room for their future development and expansion. Thus, more than 74% of the total area of EJ is part of the “static sphere” where vacant Palestinians’ lands are prevented from any kind of development by the regressive Israeli planning policies and transferred into the future for the purpose of establishing Jewish settlements, see Table 1.

Figure 6.

Analytical diagram of the Israeli regressive land use planning in EJ [author].

Space Planning and urban management % according to EJ total area % of planned area
East Jerusalem Expropriated Palestinian lands 34
Remained after expropriation Unplanned areas 26
Planned areas Housing 12 30
Roads and public buildings 14 35
Green areas 14 35
Total 100 100

Table 1.

Regressive land use planning in EJ [author].

The Israeli planning policies treated the Palestinian residents of the city as unwanted immigrants and worked systematically to drive them out of the area. Hence, the Israeli government created systematic mechanisms for expropriating the vacant Palestinian lands and limit their future development. One of these is the regressive land use planning policy by which huge areas are designated as green spaces in the Palestinian local town plans. Approximately 35% of the total planned area of EJ is zoned for this purpose. As such, construction is completely forbidden in open landscape areas, where the permitted usage only includes forestry, groves, agriculture, and the use of pre-existing roads.

Unlike open public land, open green spaces are not expropriated from their owners and remain private property unless the Israeli government decides to confiscate these green lands for the purpose of either expanding the boundaries of existing Jewish settlements. This is what happened in Shufat Arab Town, which is surrounded by lands designated as green lands from which lands were expropriated to expand Reches Shufat’s Jewish-only settlement shown in Figure 7. They can also be used for constructing new Jewish settlements as what happened in the Har Homa Jewish Settlement shown in Figure 8.

Figure 7.

(Above)—Reches Shufat Jewish-only settlement established over expropriated Palestinian green lands, (below)—Shufat Plan #3456A in Jerusalem General Outline 3000B shows the Palestinian built-up area of Shufat town surrounded by green areas and Jewish settlements in all directions [author].

Figure 8.

Palestinian green spaces in EJ are expropriated by Israel and used illegally to construct Jewish settlements. Above: Abu-Ghneim Green Mountain transformed into Har Homa Jewish Settlement [author].

The adopted Israeli planning policies in Jerusalem have aimed at constraining the future development of the Palestinian residents. Demographically, during more than 70 years of Israeli colonization in Palestine, the Jewish community has grown up amounting today nearly 800% of its original size in 1922 as per the British Mandate Census for that year Palestine’s population was characterized as 88% Muslim and Christian Arabs and 12% Jewish. Immigration accounts for most of the increase in the Jewish population at that time, while the increase in the non-Jewish population was due to birth rates [39]. By the end of the British Mandate, immigration influxes saw the Jewish population increase to more than six times more than it was before the Mandate period [40] as presented in Figure 9. Hence, the regressive biased Israeli planning policies targeted the Palestinian presence in critical life aspects as presented in Tables 2 and 3.

Figure 9.

Massive Jewish immigration to Palestine between 1948 and 1991 [20].

Unequal Israeli housing planning policies in Jerusalem
Construction densities in 1968 (units per dunum) Average housing density (person per room) Housing policies for Palestinian Arabs in EJ* Housing policies for Israeli Jewish in EJ settlements
Jewish Palestinian Jewish Palestinian
  • One housing unit was added for each additional 9.7 Palestinian residents thus 10,473 units during 1967–1997

  • 5354 housing units were added between 2000 and 2011 (21.9% of total)

  • One housing unit was added for each additional 3 Jewish residents thus 70,692 units during 1967–1997

  • 19,068 housing units were added between 2000 and 2011 (78.1% of total)

6.1 2.2 1.1 2.2
Population living in densities ≥3 (person per room) Population density (person per dunum)
Jewish Palestinian Jewish Palestinian
2.4% 27.8% 21.7 14.6

Table 2.

The discriminant Israeli planning policies in Jerusalem—East and West [author].

Israel adopts aggressive house demolition policy against Palestinians. In EJ, Israel demolished 759 Palestinian housing units and left 4151 Palestinians homeless during 2001–2018 [20, 41].

Service EJ (service for Palestinians) WJ (service for Israelis)
Status of sewage network (km) 67 650
Number of buildings not linked to sewage network 2620 70
Status of roads (km) 87 680
Status of pavements (km) 73 700
Number of social care centers 3 20
Area/number of public parks 324 (dunums)/45 5216 (dunums)/1087
Average number of persons per public park 7362 477
Number of family health centers 5 32
Average number of children per center 68,882 1821

Table 3.

Comparison of municipal services in EJ and WJ [18].

The dark side of Israeli planning is evident in EJ where Palestinians live with substandard living conditions. The dual planning criteria clearly manifest the discriminatory treatment of the Palestinians. Israel has closed many Palestinian service-providing organizations in EJ aiming at eliminating the Palestinian identity. It guarantees for Israel the socio-economical and institutional subordination of the Palestinians’ life aspects. Israel has used land use planning as a control tool to direct the Palestinian development in an “unsustainable” manner, since all the approved plans in EJ are designed to make the land, as much as possible, unavailable for Palestinian future growth. Thus, Israel has utilized political engineering through urban planning that fragments Palestinian neighborhoods in EJ. Israel continues fostering this political engineering, which intensifies ethnic separation between Palestinian and Israeli by adopting sophisticated physical segregation policies on the ground: flying checkpoint, permanent checkpoints and, eventually, the Separation Wall. This Wall was constructed illegally and in direct violation of the International Law. The wall ethnically divides two communities living in one city. It forms segregated clusters and discrete spaces. Further social disintegration, displacement and fragmentation of Palestinian families have taken place due to the construction of the Separation Wall, shown in Figure 10. The Separation Wall disconnects the Palestinian in the oPt from what used to be their economic hub, and in turn, disrupts the entire Palestinian economy by constricting the flow of income. All these policies have created a uniquely political architecture in Jerusalem that delineates aggressive military and security morphologies.

Figure 10.

Divided Palestinian communities surrounded by the Israeli Separation Wall in EJ [author].


7. Conclusion

The growing impact of the 3P concept in Jerusalem has created shocking realities on the ground. It has generated severe adverse impacts on Palestinian life. Since the illegal annexation of EJ in 1967, the Israeli regressive planning policies in EJ have been targeting the Palestinian presence via imposing complex spatial planning policies aiming largely at marginalizing the Palestinian communities, forming deprived spaces for the Arabs, and minimizing Palestinian demographic and cultural identities. Israel has effectively frozen most of the Palestinian vacant lands in EJ preventing therefore Palestinians from any kind of development there. Instead, these vacant lands are systematically, and illegally, confiscated for the purpose of constructing Jewish settlements, thus changing the physical Palestinian landscape, as well as altering the cultural identity of space and the demographic character of the city. According to the current Israeli regressive spatial planning policies, 74% of the total area of EJ is zones where Palestinians are not allowed to utilize for their basic or urgent development; of which 34% is expropriated lands thus deducted from Palestinian EJ lands and annexed, illegally, for the advantage of the Jewish population; 26% is unplanned, and therefore undeveloped areas, and 14% is green areas systematically subjected into future Israeli expropriation for the purpose of illegal construction of additional Jewish settlements.

It is evident how the Israeli regressive planning has forced Palestinians in EJ to suffer in satisfying their essential daily needs. The illegal expansion of Jewish settlements and the continuous spreading of inspection checkpoints (Figure 11) have damaged the social and urban profiles and shrunk the space available for Palestinians to live and work, and therefore has deepened a general feeling of insecurity. On contrary to international law, Israel constructed the Separation Wall to isolate Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories severing therefore the city from its socio-economic support base. Thus, Palestinian neighborhoods in EJ have collectively faced sudden rupture of their social, environmental, cultural, and economic life aspects, that is, all the 4DSS dimensions are adversely impacted. Hence, Palestinians in EJ face definitively unsustainable mode of development. The role of politics in shaping architectural space in the Palestinian areas in EJ is underestimated relative to the significant effects it has over life aspects. The examination of the analytical spatial context reveals the extent to which politics and power were evident in producing divided urban forms, in the conflict areas. Indeed, “politics” has played a significant role in defining the lifestyles of the Palestinians by forcing them to meet regular challenges. The regressive Israeli planning policies with all their inevitable consequences against the Palestinians continue and include: land expropriation, Palestinian neighborhood fragmentation, massive construction of Jewish settlements, restrictions concerning Palestinian building, destruction and confiscation of homes, lack of adequate public infrastructure, prejudicial land and zoning laws, changing residency rights and permits, and construction of the Separation Wall. These are concrete and sorrowful facts indeed. Palestinians suffer in consequence.

Figure 11.

Israeli check point at EJ northern entrance in Qalandia [author].


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Written By

Raed Najjar

Submitted: March 3rd, 2018 Reviewed: May 17th, 2018 Published: March 13th, 2019