Al Jazeera: Israel plans East Jerusalem enclave
from AlJazeera.Net, 10 May 2007
Saeb Erekat condemned Israel’s plan to build 20,000 homes in Arab east Jerusalem, Photo: AP
Israel has announced plans to build 20,000 new homes on the outskirts of occupied East Jerusalem, prompting condemnation from Palestinians.
The Israeli plan, announced on Thursday but yet to be ratified by national authorities, envisages three separate Jewish neighbourhoods being set up on land annexed after the 1967 war.
Yehoshua Pollak, chairman of Jerusalem’s planning and construction committee, said the housing was intended for young Israeli couples.
Saeb Erekat, Palestinian chief negotiator, condemned the plan, saying the Israeli government ought to choose between settlements and peace.
“We conveyed official messages to the international community to put pressure on the Israeli government to reverse this decision,” he said.
Israel’s settlements have not been recognised internationally and the UN human rights council has previously voted in support of their removal.
About 200,000 Jews already live in eastern Jerusalem among about 230,000 legally resident Palestinians.
If completed, the project would create a Jewish residential bloc linking Jerusalem with the southern bloc of Gush Etzion and northern settlements close to the West Bank city of Ramallah.
In addition, 500 homes would be built in the heart of occupied east Jerusalem, near the Palestinian area of Abu Dis.
Pepe Alalou, a Jerusalem city council official and a member of the opposition Meretz party, said the project’s “sole purpose is to bring about a provocation that could jeopardise the relative calm in the city.”
The Jerusalem municipality several months ago rejected a plan to construct 20,000 homes in the western part of Jerusalem following opposition by environmentalists.
“After [that] plan was scrapped, the city had to look for other alternatives to provide housing for its growing population,” Pollak said.
News of the project comes after the publication of a Israeli report that the number of Arabs living in Jerusalem has grown twice as fast as the city’s Jewish population over the past decade.
The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies projected that the number of Jews in the city will drop to 60 per cent by 2020 from 66 per cent, with the Arab population rising from to 40 per cent from 34 per cent.
Israel considers all of Jerusalem its capital, while Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of any future Palestinian state.