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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Mayor Uri Lupolianski called for the establishment of a 'Marshall Plan' to improve living conditions in east Jerusalem.
"There is no doubt that there is a difference in the development and infrastructure in west Jerusalem compared to east Jerusalem," Lupolianski said in a Jerusalem Day interview on Israel radio.
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Jerusalem's first haredi mayor said that it was incumbent on a government that wants to maintain a united Jerusalem to bridge the gaps in the conditions between the Jewish and predominantly Arab sections of the city.
The mayor also reiterated his support for the establishment of a secular cemetery in the city, and said he was working to set up a burial site with 18,000 places.
In the interview, Lupolianski said that east Jerusalem was neglected dating back to the time of the Ottoman Empire through British and then Jordanian rule right up to the period when Israel gained control of the eastern sector of the city nearly four decades ago.
The mayor said that "intensive" governmental investment is needed in east Jerusalem in order to bring the level of living condition in the eastern section of the city to that of the western sector, with municipal funding falling far short for such a Herculean task.
"Even if we use all of the municipal budget over several years [to deal with this issue] it will not be enough to do what is needed in order to make conditions equivalent," he said.
The four-year $13 billion US 'Marshall Plan' helped rebuild Europe after World War Two.
Despite massive city development projects initiated in east Jerusalem during the tenure of former Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert, the long-neglected predominantly Arab half of the city still lags far behind the rest of Jerusalem in terms of infrastructure, roads, garbage collection, housing, and green areas, following four decades of uncertainty over the political future of east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want to see as the capital of their future state.
During Olmert's nine-year tenure as mayor, the city invested some NIS 700 million in development projects in east Jerusalem, a sum that was more than 20 times that which was invested in the two decades before.
Before stepping down as mayor three years ago, Olmert had said that an additional NIS 1 billion is needed to bridge the gaps between east and west Jerusalem.
Arabs make up one-third of the city's 720,000 residents.
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