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Gulf News Jerusalem plan would demolish Palestinian homes

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  • Paul
    Gulf News March 02 2010 Jerusalem plan would demolish Palestinian homes Mayor agrees to request from Israel s prime minister to consult residents before
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 2, 2010
      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
      Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

      "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.
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