JERUSALEM MAYOR Nir Barkat speaks to The Jerusalem Post in City Hall’s Safra Square Thursday morning, hours before six rockets invade Jerusalem air space. .
(photo credit: ELI MANDELBAUM)
Following a stinging rebuke from the United States government that approved Israeli housing construction in east Jerusalem’s Arab Givat HaMatos neighborhood will “poison the atmosphere,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat defended the development on Thursday, adding that he refused to apologize.
“I say this firmly and clearly: building in Jerusalem is not poisonous and harmful – rather, it is essential, important and will continue with full force,” Barkat said in a statement. “I will not freeze construction for anyone in Israel’s capital.”
Moreover, Barkat dismissed the US’s criticism as a form of discrimination “based on religion, race or gender” which is “illegal in the United States, and in any other civilized country.”
According to Barkat, the 2,600 apartments to be built in the disputed neighborhood were approved two years ago to provide affordable housing for young Jerusalem residents who cannot afford the capital’s notoriously prohibitive home prices.
“This will enable more young people from all sectors and religions to live in Jerusalem and build their future here, thereby strengthening the capital of Israel,” he said. “We will not apologize for that.”
Asked if the Jerusalem Municipality coordinated the sensitive announcement with the Prime Minister’s Office, Barkat’s spokesperson said no.
Earlier this month the municipality’s Local Planning and Construction Committee approved a large-scale development plan for Arab residents of east Jerusalem’s Jebl Mukaber neighborhood, featuring 2,200 housing units and 130 hectares for additional infrastructure.
Two days after voicing pronounced discontent and filing a petition against the Jerusalem Municipality for approving the sprawling expansion of the Arab neighborhood, Barkat fired right-wing councilman Arieh King (United Jerusalem).