ACRI accuses Barkat of ignoring his own campaign promises to improve east J'lem

Association for Civil Rights in Israel: Mayor's actions don't demonstrate change in municipality's attitude to investment in eastern part of capital.

east jerusalem 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
east jerusalem 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
On the eve of Jerusalem Day, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) issued a report on Tuesday, charging that despite his promises before the election, Mayor Nir Barkat's "actions do not demonstrate any substantial change in the municipality's attitude towards development and investment in east Jerusalem." On a long list of issues - including building demolitions, housing solutions, construction of Jewish housing, discrimination in budget allocations, shortage of classrooms, sanitation and infrastructure - the situation was no better today, 200 days after Barkat became mayor, than it was under his predecessors, it charged. Barkat accused the human rights organization "of making erroneous and false allegations accompanied by a great deal of disinformation and of acting irresponsibly without knowing the actual facts." Several days earlier, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) published a report entitled, "The Planning Crisis in East Jerusalem: Understanding the Phenomenon of 'Illegal Construction.'" In its study, OCHA blamed Israeli authorities for choking development in east Jerusalem by earmarking only 13 percent of the entire area for housing construction, most of which is already densely built. OCHA found that 28% of all Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem were built in violation of Israeli zoning laws. The ACRI report charged that in his six months in office, Barkat stepped up the campaign to demolish illegal Palestinian homes. Since the beginning of the year, 1,016 demolition orders have been issued by the courts and 34 administrative demolition orders by Barkat himself. ACRI also charged that Barkat has failed to come up with practical plans to solve the Arab housing shortage in the near future. He has announced that a new outline plan for east Jerusalem will provide 13,550 homes. But 70% of this housing will only be completed by 2030 and the rest will take even longer. The Arab population is expected to be more than 500,000 in 2030, by which time the Arabs will require 50,000 homes. In his response, Barkat argued that he had signed only 21 administrative demolition orders in 2009 in east Jerusalem, compared with 20 in the western part of the city. These figures compared with a two-to-one ratio of administrative demolitions in east and west Jerusalem in previous years. He did not refer to court-ordered demolitions, even though it is the municipality that issues the orders, which are then deliberated in court. As for housing solutions in east Jerusalem, Barkat said, "Since I took over the mayoralty a few months ago, many, unprecedented measures have been made to advance building, infrastructure and education. Unlike in the past, the municipality is working hard on genuine plans based on the city master plan, and not on empty announcements issued for the sake of public relations and lip service."