Sunday, June 27, 2010

Israeli takeover of East Jerusalem

Akiva Eldar in Haaretz reports (Planning committee to release blueprint outlining takeover of East Jerusalem):
The Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee at the Interior Ministry will publish in the coming weeks a new blueprint program for development in Jerusalem that will include plans to expand Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Most of the land earmarked for this expansion is privately owned by Arabs. If the plan is approved, after objections to it are heard, it will grant official approval to an urban plan for the Israeli takeover of East Jerusalem....
In October 2008, the District Planning and Building Committee decided to advance the blueprint plan, which was prepared by a team headed by Moshe Cohen, who was the Jerusalem planning official at the Interior Ministry.
Right wing elements and factions in the Jerusalem municipality complained to Interior Minister Eli Yishai that the plan would add large residential areas for the city's Arab population, at the expense of open space and also argued it would take away from areas earmarked for Jews.
Mayor Nir Barkat ordered adjustments to the blueprint plan in line with his support for broadening Jewish presence in the Holy Basin in East Jerusalem.
Even though the National Planning and Building Committee had determined that the City of David would be categorized a "national park," the blueprint plan allows the construction of residential areas there.
The Elad NGO, whose heads are close to Barkat, purchased in recent years homes in the village of Silwan, which is near the walls of the Old City, in order to "Judaize" the area.
Last week, the municipal planning and building committee approved Barkat's plans to destroy 22 homes in the Al-Bustan neighborhood, in the southern part of Silwan. Barkat explained that illegal construction in the area is blocking the plan to transform Al-Bustan, also known as Gan Hamelech, into a part of the national park.
A spokesman for the Jerusalem municipality confirmed that "in the coming weeks the plan will be brought for discussion before the district committee.
A statement from the Interior Minister's office said that "there are discussions at a professional level in order to approve the plan."
It's events like this that are leading Israel very quickly to create a situation in which there will be only one state, and no possibility to create a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I don't know if Prime Minister Netanyahu is in cahoots with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat over these plans, or if Barkat and his right-wing partners Elad are trying to create "facts on the ground" under his nose, but if Netanyahu doesn't want to shut off his negotiating options completely, he should put a public stop to this. But of course he won't, because Netanyahu moves to stop things like this only when they have created international condemnation and a public rift with the United States.

I had a conversation over Shabbat with a couple of friends about the future of Israel. These friends are politically pretty centrist - they're religious, Zionist, have been part of the religious peace movement Oz ve-Shalom/Netivot Shalom in the past. They were saying that they thought it might come to one state. One of them said that all she wants is for Jews and Arabs to be able to live peacefully with each other, and for that purpose she's getting to the point where she is basically willing to give up on Israel being defined as a Jewish state - so that it becomes a "state of all its citizens." This is a perspective that comes from the extreme left of the Israeli political spectrum and is identified with the Hadash party (the Arab-Jewish communist party). I would never have expected either of these friends in the past to take this perspective. This is a sign of how badly the situation has deteriorated in the past year.

Update - see this article from the June 28 edition of Haaretz - Jerusalem Master Plan.

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