RAMALLAH, Mar. 7 (JMCC) - Jerusalem's mayor Nir Barkat has caused a major controversy in recent weeks over his plan to demolish 88 homes in occupied East Jerusalem to make way for a new Israeli development project in the neighborhood of Bustan.
This part of Silwan has become part of the front line in the battle for East Jerusalem between the city's Palestinian residents and an aggressive contingent of Jewish settlers focused on changing the demographic by pushing the Palestinians out.
The mayor's plan has received a significant amount of international criticism, culminating in the Israeli Prime Minister's involvement to convince the mayor to hold off on his public announcement of the project last week.
In the brochure handed out by the mayor's office in Jerusalem last week, there were pretty sketches illustrating a development that would turn a poor, crowded area into a park, with streams, restaurants and hotels. It talked of reviving the area's ancient glory and returning the site to an island of green just outside the walls of the Old City. True, some houses would have to be demolished but they had been built illegally and anyway the plan was a win-win for both the residents and the city, said the mayor, Nir Barkat.Read
Except that Jerusalem is not any city: it is at the heart of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and planning projects like this are political and potentially volatile. The area under the spotlight is Bustan, part of Silwan in east Jerusalem, home to Palestinians and, increasingly, to well-funded, heavily guarded Jewish settlers. Most of the world, including Britain, does not recognise Israeli sovereignty in the east of the city, the part it captured in 1967, occupied and then annexed.
Barkat is a secular mayor with strong rightwing views. When asked about the Palestinians of Bustan, he intervened to say they were Arab residents. He highlighted the fact that the 88 Palestinian homes in Bustan were built without planning permission and that a city like New York, say, would never allow unplanned homes to be built in Central Park. But planning here is an instrument of policy, a policy in which Israel maintains a Jewish demographic majority in Jerusalem and seeks to exert full control over the city it regards as its united, eternal capital. Few Palestinians get planning permission, but most go ahead and build regardless. Only 13% of the east is zoned for Palestinian construction, according to the UN...
the full article at The Guardian