Yishai denies trying to scuttle J'lem building plan over Arab housing

Interior Minister Eli Yishai is not intervening to cancel a proposed master plan for the capital that includes the construction of thousands of apartments for Arab residents of east Jerusalem, his spokesman said Sunday. The plan is awaiting his ministry's approval The clarification came after a rights group sent a letter to the Shas lawmaker saying he did not have the authority to scuttle the plan. The letter from the Bimkom-Planners for Planning Rights NGO, which promotes public involvement in the planning process and seeks to retroactively legalize illegal construction in Arab neighborhoods, followed reports that Yishai has instructed ministry employees to nix the master plan for Jerusalem on the grounds that it allocates too much land for Palestinian construction. It projects 13,550 apartments for Arab Jerusalemites, with 70 percent of them to be available for building by 2030. "The minister is studying the plan but is not intervening," Yishai spokesman Roi Lahmanovitz said. "The [Interior Ministry] committee has the sovereign authority to decide to accept or cancel the plan." "If the minister indeed sought to scuttle the plan, such a move represents a violation of his authority, and improper political intervention into the work of professional bodies which must be clear of politics," said Dalia Dromi, director-general of Bimkom. The minister's spokesman suggested that the rights group was either woefully misinformed, or acting out of bad faith. "Any attempt to connect the minister's name [to killing the plan] is not serious. It exhibits a lack of understanding of the law at best, or wickedness at worst," he said.