Jerusalem Plans: 12,000 Jewish Homes Nixed, 14,000 Arab Homes OK
(Israelnationalnews.com) "Only if all the religious parties in the municipality quit the coalition is there a chance to stop this travesty." So says a leading Jerusalem activist, regarding a new Interior Ministry-approved municipal plan to increase Arab housing and reduce religious housing in the capital.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat signed the plans two months ago, but opponents are considering filing a petition against them in the Supreme Court. "The entire process was fraught with irregularities and illegalities," says one activist, who does not yet wish to be identified. "For instance, the public forum was heavily weighted to the left with Arab and left-wing groups, without equal representation for nationalist and religious groups."
The new plans greatly restrict the construction of "sukkah porches" – i.e., porches with no ceiling or obstruction above, enabling residents to observe the Sukkot holiday without having to build Sukkahs outside the building.
In addition, 14,000 new apartments are being planned in Arab neighborhoods, while plans for 12,000 apartments in hareidi-religious areas have been shelved.
Another clause in the new city zoning plan stipulates that the Mt. Scopus-Beit Orot municipal park area will be used to build a new Arab neighborhood.
Especially infuriating to Jewish Jerusalem land groups is the designation of Shaar HaMizrach, a Jewish-owned area run by Aryeh King near the French Hill neighborhood, as a municipal garbage dump. The area has been the source of many battles in the past, and King says that Arab groups have long been pushing to have the area declared non-residential.
Politically-Based Discriminatory Trend
The Sanhedrin, a group of leading rabbis who wish to revive the traditional High Rabbinical Court known in Talmudic times by the same name, has listed the following objections:
"The plans indicate a politically-based discriminatory trend said to be necessary in favor of the so-called Palestinian population, at the expense of the Jewish population. This is manifest in the form of plans to change the demographic balance in the city. The plans also include leaving areas for constructing Arab governmental buildings – thus advancing the current trend of dividing the city into two political entities."
It is also noted that certain employment designations – such as higher education, government, bio-technology and medicine – will be granted preferential treatment, thus discriminating against the hareidi sector, in which these fields are less popular.
NRP Looking into the Matter
The plans also call for the establishment of "institutions for international and Israeli-Palestinian cooperation," as well as initial inquiry into the possibility of establishing an international university in the city.
Israel National News contacted Deputy Mayor David Hadari of the National Religious Party on this matter. He explained, "I brought this matter up before the municipal leadership and the forum of Deputy Mayors [of which there are six – ed.]. It was decided that the mayor will look into these charges that the plans seek Jewish-Arab 'balance' in the city – and we, too, will be meeting with experts throughout the coming week. The bottom line is that I, and Mayor Barkat as well, object to such a trend – and there is currently a difference of opinion among the experts as to whether this plan leads to such a balance or not. Some say that we're reading the indicators wrongly, and that it in fact does not lead to this balance. This is what we will check."
Asked if he is considering threatening to quit the coalition as a means of pressuring Mayor Barkat to withdraw his approval from the current plans, Hadari explained that there are currently 30 councilmen in the coalition, out of 31. All 15 of the religious-party members would have to quit in order to leave Barkat in the minority – "and this does not look likely at the moment," Hadari said.
When it was pointed out that another councilman, of the Israel Our Home party, could also be counted on to object to the current plans, Hadari still insisted that this was not his preferred approach at present.
Hadari acknowledged that the far-left Bimkom association, working to advance the cause of Arab housing in Jerusalem and throughout the country, was involved in the planning. "This is something we spoke to the mayor about," Hadari said, "and we will work to ensure that there is no trend to 'balance' out the demography in Jerusalem."
At present, the issue is not in the forefront of public opinion. This may change in the coming days, however, and the politicians may then be forced to fall into line.