A prospective Israeli plan to develop the E1 area of Jerusalem will strengthen the city and poses no obstacle to forging peace with the Palestinians, Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat stressed in an op-ed published Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal.Accordingly, he said, Israel is "saddened and appalled by the European Union ministers who condemn these construction projects." Israel has been widely criticized for approving last Friday preliminary plans to build 3,000 housing units in the E1 corridor between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim.Barkat claimed in his article that the new threat Israel faces is not from foreign invaders, but rather from "international diplomats seeking to locate a simple but incorrect solution to the complex relationship between Israel and the Palestinians."In this respect, he said that the push to divide "the united...capital of the state of Israel" is misguided, as "no divided city in history has ever succeeded.""Isn't it ironic," Barkat continued, "that many in Europe who recently celebrated 25 years of the reunification of Berlin are at the same time calling for the division of another capital on another continent?"In practical terms, Barkat insisted that the expansion of Jerusalem's residential areas was essential for the natural growth of all segments of the population, citing the fact that by 2030 the city's population will increase by more than 200,000 people to one million residents."The capital of a sovereign nation cannot be expected to freeze growth rather than provide housing to families of all faiths eager to make their lives there," Barkat said.Barkat concluded by invoking the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, saying that "The Jewish people, even in their darkest days - amid expulsions, pogroms, the Holocaust and waves of terror - have always comforted themselves with the saying: 'Next year in Jerusalem.'"Barkat's statement echoed those of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who on Monday dismissed as "simply false" the suggestion that Israeli plans for the E1 area preclude the eventual emergence of a Palestinian state.Despite expressing dissatisfaction with the Palestinians, Netanyahu nonetheless reiterated Israel's commitment to holding direct negotiations with the PA in which all issues can be raised."Israel wants a two-state solution, but it can only be achieved through direct negotiations," he said.