Israeli mayor: Jerusalem will never be divided

01/11/2011 21:02

From Ma'an News:

The mayor of Jerusalem, a rising star in Israeli politics, has vowed that the city would never be divided to allow the eastern side to become the capital of a future Palestinian state.

"It's not going to happen, it's not natural, it's the wrong thing to do from any perspective," mayor Nir Barkat said during a visit to New York.

Barkat also joined government rejections of international criticism of an historic East Jerusalem hotel to make way for settler homes.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon, the UK's Minister of the Foreign Office and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have all strongly condemned the demolition of the Shepherd's Hotel. Ban said the action would "heighten tensions."

But Barkat called their comments "shallow" and said they should visit Jerusalem before speaking out.

The Sunday demolition of the hotel, whose ownership by Jewish millionaire Irving Moskowitz is contested by the family of former grand mufti of Jerusalem Sheikh Amin Al-Husseini, will make way for luxury Jewish-only apartments in occupied East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of any future independent state.

"Not only for the Jewish people, but for the world, it would be a big mistake to go that route, in advance we know that there is not one example of a working model of a split city," Barkat told a group of reporters. "Therefore it is not on the table."

The mayor said the Shepherd's Hotel was "owned legally, by Jewish owners, they have asked to develop the land according to the zoning code, with no extra demands or requests. They have been granted permission like they would be in any city, in any country in the world."

Israel has refused US and international calls to end settlement construction in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. When the end of a temporary construction moratorium came on 26 September, Palestinian officials involved in direct negotiations with Israel pulled out of the talks.

US mediators attempted to convince Israel to reinstate the moratorium, but were not successful.

While most settlement projects take over agricultural lands owned by Palestinians or traditional village land shared by residents, settler groups in East Jerusalem have focused on taking over Palestinian homes through often dubious ownership claims. Several homes in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah had their residents evicted in favor of the settlers, while others were evicted while the court action continues.

Palestinians say the combined campaign to remove them from their homes, build settlements on their lands and demolish newly constructed buildings is an overall attempt to remove the Palestinian presence from the city.

But Barkat argued that "Arab neighbors" could also get permits to build under Israeli law.

"Anybody trying to freeze by race -- its anti-constitutional, it is double standards and it is not acceptable," Barkat said.

A spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas said the demolition of the hotel had "ended any possibility of a return to (peace) negotiations."

Barkat, an independent, has been mayor of Jerusalem for two years and has been tipped by analysts as a probable member of a future right wing government.


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