E. Jerusalem building plans approved

In an unusual move, the Jerusalem Municipality has authorized 17 construction plans for Arab building in east Jerusalem, the city announced Tuesday. The construction proposals, which were initiated by Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski, were approved by a municipal committee this week and have been forwarded to an Interior Ministry planning committee for final approval. Lupolianski called the building plans a "revolutionary step," which constituted a "breakthrough" in the status of east Jerusalem residents of the city. The building plans in question are for the city's Beit Hanina and Shuafat neighborhoods on approximately 1,000 dunams of land, said City Engineer Osnat Post. The dearth of long-term construction plans in east Jerusalem has frequently been cited as a cause for the rampant illegal building carried out in Arab neighborhoods. Palestinians and left-wing Israelis routinely complain that it was too difficult for Arabs to obtain building permits in Jerusalem, forcing them to build illegally, while the municipality insists it is evenhanded in enforcing building codes in all parts of the city.