Buildings in Shuafat Refugee Camp, a Jerusalem neighborhood located behind the security barrier that would be affected by Elkin's plan.
(photo credit: UDI SHAHAM)
The plan to cut off the neighborhoods located behind the West Bank security barrier is essentially dividing Jerusalem, and inviting terrorist cells to locate themselves closer to the capital, according to Moshe Lion, one of the leading candidates of the mayoral race in Jerusalem.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Monday, Lion said that he opposes the plan that was put forward by Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who recently announced his candidacy in the race to the office of the mayor Jerusalem.
The elections are set to take place on October 30th.
According to the plan, all Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem that are located beyond the security barrier, erected during the Second Intifada in 2004, will be cut off from the Jerusalem Municipality, and a new municipal council will be established in its place.
These areas include the neighborhoods of Kafr Akab, Shuafat Refugee Camp, Sawahra a-Sharqia and a-Sheikh Sa’ad.
The neighborhoods are separated from the rest of Jerusalem by a checkpoint, and have free access to areas in the West Bank such as Ramallah and Abu Dis.
Since the erection of the wall, the Jerusalem Municipality stopped providing services almost completely to these neighborhoods, saying its too risky. Even police forces rarely go there.
Because of immigration from the West Bank to these areas, the authorities find it hard to estimate the population number. However, Ir Amim NGO says there are between 120,000 to 150,000 people living there.
Elkin’s plan – which is currently being discussed by the National Security Council before it approved by the cabinet – mainly targets the “demographic threat,” posed by people who come from the West Bank and settle in areas that are technically within the municipal borders of Jerusalem.
However, Lion maintains the establishing a new municipality in these areas will eventually lead to handing them over to the Palestinian Authority.
”Creating a new municipality is de facto dividing Jerusalem,” Lion said. “He [Elkin] says that this new municipal entity will be under Israeli control, but basically it would serve as a platform for future negotiations that will lead to handing these neighborhoods over,” he added.
Lion stressed that since Israel declared is Jerusalem is united and undivided, it must take care of all of its citizens.
“We should take care of the entire citizens, regardless if they are living inside or beyond the barrier,” he said.
He then added that the state should allocate more resources to deal with security and governance issues within the neighborhoods, and at the same time work to oversee and supervise the illegal building there - that poses a threat to the residents living there.
In response to Lion’s remarks, Elkin dismissed allegations that the plan would engender the residents of Jerusalem, and said that it would not lead to dividing the capital.
“These are ridicules claims,” he said. “No one talked, whatsoever, about handing over the control to the PA. We are talking about municipal borders change, and changing the municipal administration over these neighborhoods,” he continued.
“This plan was set to bring more governance to the area – a thing that it is lacking now – and to stop the massive flow of illegal infiltration into Jerusalem, that affects the demographic balance in the city and jeopardize the Jewish majority.
“So saying that it is a security issue is empty words… But I guess that everything is allowed in the elections period,” he said.