(photo credit: REUTERS)
On the heels of a dismal government report describing increased violence and deterioration of the general infrastructure in east Jerusalem, the cabinet approved a plan on Sunday to invest NIS 295 million to strengthen the eastern portion of the capital.
The so-called “Mendelblit Report,” formulated by an inter-ministerial committee led by Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mendelblit, calls for funds to improve law enforcement, educational standards and welfare services to be allocated over the next five years.
The committee’s recommendations are the product of an intensive fact-finding mission commissioned earlier this year and overseen by the Prime Minister’s Office, as well as by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), the Construction and Housing Ministry, Jerusalem District Police, the Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Ministry, the Jerusalem Municipality and the Treasury.
Following the research, the committee determined that the deteriorating condition of east Jerusalem infrastructure is the result of multiple factors, including limited legislative effort to address the area’s needs proactively, insufficient law enforcement, and declining educational and social welfare standards.
The report concluded that violence in east Jerusalem reflects the government’s inability “to govern the area under its sovereignty effectively.”
These problems have curbed tourism to historic sites, including the Mount of Olives, and led to “untenable living conditions” for local residents.
“Integrated action by various state authorities, with uncompromising enforcement and punishment against those who seek to undermine Israeli control in these areas, is needed to improve living conditions for residents and reduce motivation for disturbances of order,” the report said.
The recommendations are similar to the plan Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett developed to apply Israeli law to the Palestinians living in Area C of the West Bank. Implementation the report’s conclusions will be led by Bennett and his ministry’s director-general.
The Mendelblit Report predicts that implementation of its recommendations will likely engender “far-reaching results.”
“On a national level, this is an important contribution to the unity of Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, and the effort to remove the fear many visitors have of violent events occurring at important historic national sites,” the report said. “On the municipal level, it will help strengthen the feeling of belonging for east Jerusalem residents, strengthen municipal governance in the city’s eastern neighborhoods, and improve the security situation.”
To reduce crime, the plan is set to allocate NIS 95m. to employ more police officers in the area and procure additional security cameras. Moreover, the government is expected to institute harsher penalties on those who break the law in east Jerusalem, with stricter guidelines on arrests and indictments to be issued by the Justice Ministry.
In terms of education, NIS 47m. is to be invested in adding more computers to east Jerusalem schools, increased Hebrew instruction, greater preparation for college matriculation, and enhanced efforts to reduce the number of highschool dropouts.
Unemployment will be addressed with NIS 48m. to be invested in small- and medium- sized businesses and in job-counseling centers. An additional NIS 39m. is to be invested to address at-risk youth, substance abuse and substandard welfare services, the report added.
Meanwhile, NIS 67m. is set to be allocated for maintenance and improvements in public buildings, transportation, road safety, sewage and lighting, among other things.
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On condemned the cabinet’s plan for east Jerusalem.
“The future of Jerusalem must be decided upon around the negotiations table. Any attempt by the government to set facts on the ground in east Jerusalem through the investment of millions of shekels, through the expansion of Israeli construction in the neighborhoods, is meant to prevent any option of reaching an agreement on Jerusalem,” she said.
Following the announcement, the left-wing Ir Amim NGO issued a statement criticizing what it deemed to be a mere fraction of the funds necessary to improve east Jerusalem’s infrastructure.
“According to the Jerusalem Municipality, NIS 2 billion is required to bring east Jerusalem’s infrastructure into fair condition,” the statement read. “The government decided to spend only one-tenth of that within the next five years.”
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