City Hall was unaware PA to give millions to J'lem schools

City councilors, right-wing groups slam renovations of 15 private schools in east of city; Yakir Segev says "Authority isn't a matter of money."

By MELANIE LIDMAN
October 29, 2010 01:53
3 minute read.
City Hall was unaware PA to give millions to J'lem schools

shepherd hotel east jerusalem 248. (photo credit: )

The Palestinian Authority has set aside millions of dollars to renovate 15 private schools in east Jerusalem, angering city councilors and right-wing groups who believe the renovations amount to the PA flaunting its authority in municipal Jerusalem. PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad will preside over two rededication ceremonies for schools next Tuesday.

“What you have here is recognized devaluation of the authority of the State of Israel in Jerusalem,” city councillor Elisha Peleg (Likud) told The Jerusalem Post. “Little by little, they take more and more authority away from the state to take care of the residents of the city.”

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Peleg noted that the PA is already paving roads and providing other services that the municipality should be providing.


Fayyad, according to some Hebrew media reports, earmarked NIS 1.2 million to pave roads in Dahiyat al-Salam, a neighborhood located within the municipality but outside the security barrier, and street paving began in late September.

The PA’s sponsorship of school renovations came as a surprise to the municipality.

“We know the PA has been trying to do activities and sponsor projects in Jerusalem,” said city councillor Yakir Segev, from Mayor Nir Barkat’s Jerusalem Will Succeed party, who holds the east Jerusalem portfolio. He said that the police would look into how the PA transferred money to sponsor the renovations, as PA funding within municipal Jerusalem borders is illegal.

The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel sent a letter on Wednesday to Jerusalem police and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch asking them to prevent the rededication ceremonies on Tuesday.

“This is a type of destruction,” said Legal Forum spokesman Shmuel Klein. “We’re talking about renovating a school and a dedication ceremony which is forbidden according to the law.”

The sponsorship puts the municipality in an awkward position, because the decrepit state of some school facilities in east Jerusalem is well-known.

“There’s a vacuum because there isn’t enough assistance by the authorities making sure that every child in Jerusalem can go to school,” said Ronit Sela, the spokeswoman for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. ACRI has counted a shortage of at least 1,000 classrooms in east Jerusalem, and more than a quarter of the existing classrooms are in “inappropriate conditions,” according to the group.

“To tell someone they can’t do it, while the municipality isn’t doing it, is ironic and problematic,” Sela said.

The 15 schools renovated with PA funds are all private schools, which do not receive funding from the municipality or the Ministry of Education. They are scattered across east Jerusalem, including central neighborhoods like Sheikh Jarrah, Wadi Joz and the Old City. According to ACRI, 40,000 students in east Jerusalem study at private schools, though many do so unwillingly because they do not have access to public schools.

“The municipality of Jerusalem invests huge budgets in the eastern part of the city, above and beyond what is customary in the western part of the city, including raising funds, distributing computers to students and closing gaps, along with the Ministry of Education,” a source at the municipality said.

Segev agreed that east Jerusalem schools are in dire need of an overhaul.

“It’s clear that the money that we need to spend there is way over the abilities of the municipality, and we haven’t succeeded up until today,” he told the Post.

“I’m hoping that this publicity will illuminate the problem,” Segev added. “But even if we didn’t put [enough money], that doesn’t mean that someone else is allowed to attack our authority. There’s no connection. Authority isn’t a matter of money.”


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