Both advocates and critics of deliberative planning often study deliberative planning processes as if they are real-life approximations of an ideal situation where the only force is the force of the better argument. However, in the course of the last decade democratic theorists came to develop a complex systemic understanding of the role of deliberation in policy making. In this view, legitimate decision making is not a one-time process but an ongoing pattern of interaction between organized institutions and the public sphere. This paper builds on recent work on political representation to develop a framework for studying deliberative planning as a type of representative claim made within a complex ecology of representative institutions and applies this framework to the case of a deliberative planning initiative in East Jerusalem. We examine the weaknesses and strengths of deliberative planning processes in a political environment that is not hospitable to public participation in planning.