Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Jerusalem mayor - for now - puts off plan to demolish tens of Palestinian homes in Silwan

 It seems that - for the moment at least -  a large scale operation
to demolish tens of houses belonging to Paletinian residents of the Al-Bustan area of Silwan in East-Jerusalem is going to be postponed. The plan was to replace the area by a biblical park. But Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat agreed on Tuesday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's request to put off the operation, which he was going to make public at a press conference,  until a deal had been reached with the Palestinian residents.
Netanyahu had urged Barkat to reconsider the plan to avoid sparking further tensions.
According to the plan, most of which was reported in the New York Times a few days ago, Barkat is seeking to reach an agreement with the residents of 89 so called 'illegal' buildings slated for demolition in the Palestinian area known as Al Bustan (renamed Gan Hamelech by Israel). Barkat promised the prime minister that he would try to reach an agreement with the residents and would put off implementing the plans.
About a year ago Barkat became embroiled in a high-profile conflict with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over his intention to demolish the homes. Barkat is now offering permits to some residents to legalize their buildings. Others will be demolished and replaced with a tourist park. The Palestinians whose houses are demolished will be able to operate tourist-related businesses in the park

Barkat brought the idea for this large scale demolishing operation up after he was confronted with an order of the high court to demolish the so called Beit Yonatan, a seven story house in the area that has been built without a permit by Jewish settlers of the Elad society, which seeks to change the whole area into a biblical tourist park. An order to bring the building down was aborted a couple of weeks ago, after the mayor  'forgot' to inform the inhabitants in time. 
Elad is also performing an excavation in the are with permission of the Israeli Antiquities Authority. Inhabitants claim that because of these excavations last Sunday a parking lot near a mosque in the area caved in. It was the fifth time that such a pit appeared somwhere in the pavement in a Silwan street. The inhabitants appealed two times with the high court, but judge Edna Arbel turned there request down, arguing that the connectiom with the excavations was not proven, whiledamage to buildings could well result from the fact that these are 'íllegally built structures with problematic infrastructure'.  

In another dvelopment concerning the Judaization of Jerusalem the US State Department voiced concern on Monday over a reported Israeli plan to expand a settlement on Palestinian land in the West Bank. Spokesman Philip Crowley of the US State Department said, according to Ma'an News, that 'we've relayed our strong concerns to the government of Israel, that this kind of activity, particularly as we try to relaunch meaningful negotiations is counter-productive and undermines trust between the parties'.

The Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Friday that the government approved 600 new units of housing in Pisgat Ze’ev, a settlement near Ramallah in what Israel regards as East Jerusalem. This was down from an original plan for 1000 units, of which part on privately owned land  'We have seen reports that plans for 600 housing units in Pisgat Ze'ev in East Jerusalem, originally deposited in 2008, have advanced in the approval process, although we understand that the total number of units has been reduced from the original plan," Crowley told reporters in Washington.


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