Jerusalem Mayor, Nir Barkat, presented, Tuesday morning, a controversial new city planning policy for East Jerusalem which entails demolishing several homes, Agence France-Presse reported.
Barkat announced that the re-zoning plan would take into consideration the ‘current unsatisfactory situation’, and demand a freeze on all current demolition orders in east Jerusalem until the plan is approved by the Israeli government and can go ahead.
Jerusalem’s mayor stated that Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been stopping the city’s municipality from demolishing houses in east Jerusalem in recent months. Barkat said to a government watchdog that political interference and the reluctance of police to oversee municipal demolitions has limited them this year.
The plan has been raising tensions in Jerusalem. No immediate comments were made by Netanyahu on Barkat’s remarks which come as the premier is trying to move forward with the current peace talks; stalled over Israel’s continued settlement construction.
In the past, Netanyahu has asked to Jerusalem municipality to delay the creation of a biblical park outside the walls of the Old City which lies at the heart of the re-zoning plan, largely condemned by Palestinians and the international community. Netanyahu has also drawn heavy international criticism for allowing illegal construction projects across Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem.
Barkat’s plan focuses on the King’s Garden project, in an area situated outside the Old City’s walls where 22 homes would be razed while another 66 would be legalised in al-Bustan; a Palestinian neighborhood. The 88 homes had all been subjected to demolition since they were built without Israeli permits, whose prohibitively high cost and low acceptance rate make them virtually impossible to obtain. The mayor added that the new city planning policy would be later extended to four other Arab neighborhoods in the city.
In the spring of 2010, residents of the community drafted an alternative plan proposing measures aimed to take the number of Jerusalem evictions and demolitions down to zero.