Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Thursday faced increased international criticism over an east Jerusalem redevelopment plan involving 22 house demolitions inside the Silwan neighborhood, which, the mayor’s office clarified on Thursday, will not use public funding for the resettling of those whose homes are demolished.
“The municipality is seeking money from the international community and from NGOs to help fund the [resettlement] process,” a spokesman for the mayor told The Jerusalem Post
on Thursday. ”And we believe that we can raise those funds,” he added. “But still, I would remind you that these are 22 illegal buildings, and while the municipality is putting significant capital into the planning and zoning process, it will not be using public funds to construct residential units.
“It would be illegal, and it could be challenged in the courts,” he said.
The plan, which focuses on the El-Bustan or Gan Hamelech section of the neighborhood, passed an initial hearing in the municipality’s Local Planning and Construction Committee on Monday, and stipulates that 88 homes built without the proper permits in an area originally zoned as parkland, will be divided into two groups and either retroactively legalized, or demolished to make way for its restoration as green space.
Although municipality officials have maintained that the plan is aimed at improving the residents’ quality of life, and that a number of individual agreements have already been hammered-out with Palestinian residents in El-Bustan, the move has now drawn the ire of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who on Wednesday evening labeled the plan illegal and unhelpful to the peace process.
In an official statement, the UN chief said, ”the planned moves are contrary to international law, and to the wishes of Palestinian residents.” The statement also cautioned against “provocative steps” that could “heighten tensions in the city.”
“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the decision by the Jerusalem Municipality to advance planning for house demolitions and further settlement activity in the area of Silwan,” the statement said. “The current moves are unhelpful, coming at a time when the goal must be to build trust to support political negotiations.”
Those comments were followed by similar statements in Ramallah on
Thursday, where in reference to the redevelopment plan, Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told reporters that, ”Israeli
practices in east Jerusalem hinder peace talks.
”Israel should realize that it is setting obstacles against the peace
process,” Abbas said, adding “its actions in Jerusalem put peace
efforts in danger.”
Morocco also issued a condemnation of the plan on Thursday, with an
official statement from the country’s Foreign Ministry warning of the
”serious consequences of this decision, which shows no respect for the
special legal status of Jerusalem as a city under occupation since
1967... Morocco urges the major powers and the United Nations to
immediately intervene to dissuade Israel from going ahead with this
illegitimate decision and put an end to the judaization plans in east