Ehud Barak slams plan to demolish Palestinian homes

Last Updated: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 - 15:15

Jerusalem: Under flak from US over plans
to raze 22 Palestinian homes, Israel`s Defence Minister Ehud
Barak today lashed Jerusalem authorities for "lack of common
sense and sense of timing" on the issue.

Barak, who is in the US for a series of meetings with
top officials, faced criticism and demands for explanations
after the Jerusalem municipal planning committee decided to
destroy 22 houses in the Arab neighbourhood of Silwan
yesterday.

"The Jerusalem municipality and the planning committee
have shown a lack of common sense and sense of timing and
not for the first time," Barak said, in an apparent reference
to an earlier announcement to build 1600 housing units in an
east Jerusalem neighbourhood during the visit of US Vice
President Joe Biden.

The move had led to a diplomatic crisis between the two
close allies described by analysts as the worst in 35 years.

The city`s plan would raze 22 Palestinian homes,
claimed to have been built illegally, and construct a tourism
centre in their place. An additional 66 homes built without
the proper permits are to receive approval retroactively.

The tourism centre for the area, which is called al
Bustan in Arabic and Gan Hamelekh (King`s Garden) in Hebrew,
is to include restaurants and boutique hotels.

The city authorities said they would residents of the
22 homes due for demolition to move to other areas of the
Silwan neighbourhood.

A US spokesman said yesterday that the decision
threatened recently restarted peace talks between Israel and
the Palestinians, under American mediation.

"This is expressly the kind of step that we think
undermines trust that is fundamental to making progress in the
proximity talks," State Department spokesman Phillip Crowley
said.

Local residents oppose the plan, claiming its purpose
is to increase the hold of Jewish settlers over the
neighbourhood. They have submitted an alternative scheme that
does not involve the demolition of homes but still includes
the park proposed by the city.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister`s Office has clarified that
the demolition and development plan in the east Jerusalem
neighbourhood is in a "very initial stage" and that its final
approval would require many discussions.

Israel`s hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
expressed hopes that all sides would reach "an acceptable
solution guaranteeing that the law will be honoured."

"This is a very initial procedure," the Prime
Minister`s Office said in a statement.

"The plan will face discussions and objections both
at the municipality`s local committee and at the Interior
Ministry`s district committee, where the residents` stand will
be presented," it said.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 - 15:15

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