Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Jerusalem to Build 2,200 Homes for Arab Community

Despite opposition from right-wing members of the Knesset, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat’s initiative is pushing through

By: Daniel Koren

Published: September 4th, 2014 in Business » Israel

Jerusalem to Build 2,200 Homes for Arab Community

Despite fierce opposition from right-wing members of Israel’s Knesset, the Jerusalem Local Building and Planning Committee officially passed an initiative advocated by Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat on Wednesday, which calls for the construction and development of 2,200 new homes in Arav al-Swahara, an East Jerusalem Arab neighborhood.

Will the initiative, however, receive as much airtime as Israel’s recent decision to build a settlement in the West Bank?

Doubtful.

Regardless, as stated by Barkat, “The planning of neighborhoods in East Jerusalem by the Jerusalem municipality is a clear expression of Israel’s sovereignty over every part of the city and the unified strength of Jerusalem.”

He added that, where hundreds of illegally built Arab homes in the area have been demolished over the past decade, this new development plan will provide Arab residents of Jerusalem with housing opportunities they need.

In the past, Jerusalem’s Arab communities have criticized Israel for developing housing opportunities only for its Jewish residents, which forces them to seek illegal construction, reports the Times of Israel.

Barkat, alongside Deputy Mayor Koby Kahlon (who chairs the building and planning committee) had attempted to bring the development plan to pass on several occasions, but was always stopped by right-wing politicians, including Aryeh King – head of the Israel Land Fund – and Mati Dan, member of the ultra-right wing party Jewish Home.

King had been intensely campaigning to prohibit the plan from coming to fruition, advocating that members of Jewish Home vote against the initiative.

However, the ultra-Orthodox party abstained from the plan and it was finally passed on Wednesday, thanks to support from the Yerushalmim party’s Tamir Nir, Hitorerut’s Hanan Rubin, and Meretz’s Pepe Alalu, and to the chagrin of King.

He eventually accused the Shas party of helping Barkat in bringing the measure to pass.

“Shas city councilman Michael Malkieli unfortunately ‘disappeared’ and was absent from the committee meeting despite his promise that he would oppose the plan, and because of him the leftist plan passed,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

According to Rubin, the plan will allow the “building of a normal neighborhood in East Jerusalem” which was an important step. He hopes that, next, the committee will approve “thousands of affordable housing units for young people in other parts of the city.”

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