Gulf News Jerusalem plan would demolish Palestinian homes
- Gulf News March 02 2010
Jerusalem plan would demolish Palestinian homes
Mayor agrees to request from Israel's prime minister to consult
residents before breaking ground
Benjamin Netanyahu told the parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defence
Committee that keeping the Jordan Valley was an "essential condition to
ensure security and ensure that a peace deal holds."
Occupied Jerusalem: Occupied Jerusalem's mayor unveiled a plan on
Tuesday to demolish dozens of Palestinian homes to make room for a
tourist centre in one of the disputed city's most volatile
neighbourhoods, drawing criticism from Palestinians and the United Nations.
Mayor Nir Barkat agreed to last-minute request from Israel's prime
minister to consult Palestinian residents before breaking ground. That
could delay the plan for an unknown period of time, but the move
threatened to raise tensions in the holy city just as the Obama
administration makes a new push to renew Mideast peace talks.
"There is no way the Palestinians can accept the demolishing of houses
in [occupied] Jerusalem and the continuation of building settlements
[colonies] for the Jewish settlers [colonisers], while the United States
is trying to bring the parties together," Palestinian Cabinet minister
Mohammad Ishtayeh told The Associated Press. "We fully and totally
condemn all these Israeli measures."
At a news conference, Barkat presented his plan as a much needed upgrade
of occupied Jerusalem's decaying Al Bustan neighbourhood, which Israeli
officials have begun calling Gan Hamelech, or the King's Garden, linking
it to the site where the biblical King David is said to have written his
The city wants to build shops, restaurants, art galleries and a large
community centre replete with day care facilities and gyms. Barkat said
the area's Palestinian residents, subject to decades of neglect, will
benefit, and that most of those who would lose their homes would be
eligible for alternative housing.
"The conditions in which these residents live are intolerable. The goal
of the plan is to find solutions," Barkat said.
But few Israeli moves in occupied east Jerusalem are benign in
Palestinian eyes. The Palestinians hope to make that part of the city _
captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war _ the capital of a future
independent state. They see Barkat's plan as another way for Israel to
cement its control there. Israel annexed east Jerusalem immediately
after capturing it, but no other country recognised the move.
Mousa Oudeh, a 58-year-old Palestinian whose home is one of 88 slated
for demolition, accused Barkat of fomenting "extremism and bloodshed."
"This is our land and home," he said, holding up a document he said was
the title to the property. "Our house is a symbol of our dignity."
Such disputed over construction in occupied east Jerusalem have turned
violent in the past.
Apparently fearing stiff criticism from the US, Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu called on Barkat to hold the plan up while he
consults with the affected Palestinians. Barkat agreed.
Al Bustan, a section of a larger Jerusalem neighbourhood known as
Silwan, is located across from the walls of the Old City, with its
sacred shrines holy to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The
neighbourhood is home to some 50,000 Palestinians and around 70 Jewish
Just to the west of Al Bustan is a newly-constructed archaeological park
called the City of David, run by Jewish colonisers.
Colonisers have illegally erected an apartment building elsewhere in
Silwan - a tiny enclave amid a sea of Palestinians - and on Monday a
security guard was shot and wounded there. On a recent morning,
residents of the building showed reporters black marks caused by Molotov
cocktails thrown at the front door, and described how a washing machine
was dropped from an upper floor in the direction of colonisers.
Silwan has become a nucleus of tension between Palestinians fearful of
eviction and Jews determined to ensure the holy city remains Israel's
undivided capital. It's also become a flashpoint of potential friction
between Israel's right-leaning government led by Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu and an international community seeking to end the
"We're trying to reduce tensions at the current time, not exacerbate
them," said Richard Miron, spokesman for the UN's Mideast envoy.
"Whatever the intentions behind such a project, Israel needs to
understand that demolishing Palestinian homes in [occupied] east
Jerusalem demolishes confidence among Palestinians and frankly, also
Earlier on Tuesday, Netanyahu drew Palestinian fire for telling a
parliamentary committee that even after a peace treaty, Israel would
have to retain the Jordan River Valley at the east edge of the West Bank
for security reasons.
Netanyahu told the parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee
that keeping the Jordan Valley was an "essential condition to ensure
security and ensure that a peace deal holds," according to a meeting
participant who spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat rejected Netanyahu's comments. "He
knows that this is a nonstarter for any peace agreement," Erekat said.