(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel plans to move to the City of David, a Jerusalem neighborhood outside the Old City walls in the coming weeks.
The neighborhood, known in Arabic as Silwan, made headlines recently when The Ir David Foundation (Elad), an nongovernmental organization connected to the archeological park in the City of David, bought homes in the neighborhood and Jews moved into them.
Ariel and his wife, who live in Kfar Adumim, looked at homes in the City of David on Thursday and they plan to make a final decision this week.
They will rent an apartment and live in it part of the week.
When asked why Ariel plans to rent a home there, his spokesman said: “Why is that even a question? “It is the right of every Jew to live in every part of Jerusalem. Even the prime minister said so. There is no question about it,” the spokesman added.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected US criticism of Jews moving to the City of David, saying he is “baffled” by it and that there is nothing wrong with Jews and Arabs living in the same neighborhood.
“If you said to me that in some city in the United States or in Mexico, or anywhere else, Jews cannot buy apartments, there would be an uproar,” he said in an interview with US Spanish-language TV channel Univision.
“You know, there’s not only the freedom of property, but the right of every individual to live where they want, as long as they purchase the apartment legally and don’t expropriate, don’t take over, which isn’t the case here.”
In a briefing with Israeli journalists, Netanyahu declared, “I will also not say that Jews cannot buy property in Jerusalem. There cannot be discrimination between Jews and Arabs.”
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On criticized Ariel, saying that moving to the City of David is “an irresponsible act by the minister Ariel who, instead of restraining the provocations in Jerusalem is joining the gang of pyromaniacs who are throwing a match at a barrel of gunpowder in order to light Jerusalem on fire.”
Gal-On said the whole government will be responsible for Ariel’s actions, calling them an attempt to torpedo any chance of a peace treaty.
The Meretz leader added that government plans to build in Jerusalem neighborhoods Ramat Shlomo and Givat Hamatos do the same, “leading to riots in Jerusalem and the Temple Mount and extremist settlers taking over Silwan with the goal of expelling Palestinians from east Jerusalem.”
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.