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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
At a special cabinet meeting on Jerusalem Sunday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced plans to channel NIS 5.75 billion worth of benefits into the capital over the next five years, in an attempt to reverse the capital's demographic trends which Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski warned could lead to Hamas taking over the city without firing a shot.
"Jerusalem could, God forbid, end up not under Jewish sovereignty, but rather that of Hamas," Lupolianski said at the meeting, held at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center overlooking the Old City walls in honor of the 40th anniversary of the unification of the capital.
Hamas, Lupolianski said, "knows that it is possible to capture Jerusalem through demography within 12 years. We need a plan, and not crumbs, so that Jerusalem will remain Israel's capital forever."
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A recent study carried out by Hebrew University demographer Prof. Sergio Della Pergola predicted that if the situation - and Jerusalem's borders - remained unchanged, only 60% of Jerusalem's residents would be Jews by 2020, with the remaining 40% Arab, while another survey predicted that the number of Jews and Arabs living in the city would reach parity within a quarter century.
The cabinet discussed a number of steps that Olmert said would "advance and encourage Jerusalem." He said their overall cost, along with a grant he had already approved, would be NIS 5.75 billion over five years. Prime Minister's Office Director-General Ra'anan Dinur said "We want to assure the economic strength of the city. These measures will greatly assist in achieving this goal." Olmert said that the reason the meeting was being held at the Begin Center, was because former prime minister Menachem Begin pushed the Basic Law: Jerusalem - Capital of Israel which Olmert said "expresses Jerusalem's special place for us as a state and a society."
The measures the cabinet discussed included:
â€¢ Canceling the employer's tax in Jerusalem. The plan is for the Prime Minister's Office and the Finance Ministry to enact an across-the-board cancellation of employer's tax, which is imposed on salaries paid by non-profit organizations.
â€¢ Transferring various government offices to Jerusalem. According to the proposal, rental contracts for government offices outside Jerusalem will not be renewed beyond 2015.
â€¢ Construction of a Jerusalem Magistrate's Court complex in the city center.
â€¢ Establishing a central school for Jerusalem studies at the Yad Ben-Zvi Institute that is to produce educational materials and programs, encourage research and cooperate with other bodies in the field of Jerusalem studies.