Jerusalem municipality refutes report of grim situation for east Jerusalem residents

On eve of Jerusalem Day, city says recent report's data hid investements benefitting Arab residents.

Palestinian girls pass a bread vendor in the Old City. Most Jerusalem street vendors do not have a license. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian girls pass a bread vendor in the Old City. Most Jerusalem street vendors do not have a license.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
While a Central Bureau of Statistics report released Tuesday portrays Jerusalem as a city on the rise in virtually every respect, a competing report issued by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel paints a decidedly dimmer narrative for Arab residents.
According to the CBS report, construction of a record number of residential units began in Jerusalem during 2013, breaking the previous record, which stood for 20 years. In the past three years, the report stated, the municipality has approved plans for the construction of 15,651 new residential units throughout the entire city.
The report added that approximately 30,000 young people between the ages of 20 and 34 have moved to Jerusalem in the last four years, constituting 51 percent of all those moving into Jerusalem from the Tel Aviv metropolitan area.
In terms of the city’s presently anemic economy, the report noted that 50,000 new jobs were created in Jerusalem between 2008 and 2012. It added that the municipality intends to create 100,000 more jobs via the construction of 4 million sq. m. businesses district at the city’s entrance.
With respect to immigration, the report states that 2,335 new immigrants settled in Jerusalem during 2013; 959 of them between the ages of 19 and 30. These immigrants constitute 13% of all new immigrants arriving to Israel, twice as many as Tel Aviv (1,060) and Haifa (1,130), it states.
Meanwhile, the CBS report added that approximately 7 million people visited cultural events, festivals and cultural institutions in the city during 2013, while some 4 million tourists stayed in the capital, exceeding the number of tourists in Haifa and Tel Aviv.
In terms of overall quality of life, the report found that 92% of Jerusalem residents say they are happy with their lives, compared with 88% in Israel, 86% in Tel Aviv and 81% in Haifa.
Jerusalem’s residents are also the most optimistic in Israel in regard to their future, the report found, with 63% of residents estimating that their life in the future will be better. This rate is a bit higher than the rate in Israel (59%), in Tel Aviv (57%) and in Haifa (54%).
Mayor Nir Barkat, who won reelection for a second five-year term in October, hailed the report Tuesday as unmitigated proof of his successful stewardship of the capital over the preceding five years.
“The residents of Jerusalem feel the youthful energy coursing through the city, and are enjoying the great wave of development enveloping the city,” Barkat said in a statement. “Jerusalem is a modern, attractive and leading city, which attracts young people who enjoy the culture, sport, leisure, excellent education and quality of life that exists only in Jerusalem.”
The mayor added that the municipality is working closely with citizens to ensure an even better future.
“We are continuing to develop the city together with the residents, and are investing all of our resources in developing Israel’s capital for future generations,” he said.  
However, according to a report released by ACRI on Monday, more than three quarters of the residents of Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods – 75.3% of the total and 82.2% of children – live below the poverty line,
The annual Facts and Figures Report, released ahead of Jerusalem Day, surveyed the situation in eastern Jerusalem and found “a frightening picture of poverty, blight, and neglect.”
In response to ACRI’s damning report, the municipality issued a statement Tuesday patently denouncing it as “distorted” and “detached from reality,” adding that it is little more than a politically driven attempt to smear city hall.
“We regret ACRI chooses each year to recycle the same report, which is distorted and detached from reality in order to get some media exposure, while ignoring the deep and broad advances the municipality has made in the east of the city to reduce the gaps created over the last 40 years,” it stated.
According to the municipality, the city has invested an unprecedented amount of capital to improve east Jerusalem, including NIS 500m. to develop its foundering transportation infrastructure, and NIS 400m. in education and classroom construction.
Additionally, it said “tens of millions” more is being invested to build community and cultural centers, clinics, sporting facilities, post offices and to prevent exceedingly high school dropout rates.
“The ACRI report attempts to hide from public view the huge investments which benefit all residents of East and West, as well as omitting specific investment budgets for the east of the city based on political interests,” the municipality stated.
Moreover, it cited a recent report from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in cooperation with the Palestinian Centre for Public Opinion and Princeton University, which supports the municipality’s claims of improving the eastern part of the capital.
“The report shows a dramatic increase of 19% in the satisfaction level of residents there with respect to municipal services, and that there is a 30% increase in the satisfaction of the residents from the provision of building permits,” the municipality noted.
Lidar Grave-Laze contributed to this report.