Peace Now, another Israeli group, released similar information about the plan, based on a government budget document, saying it feared the proposal was "possibly preventing the ability to reach a two-state solution".
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Peace groups say government's secret plans with settler groups could prevent two-state solutionby Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem
Israel is quietly extending its control over East Jerusalem in alliance
with rightwing Jewish settler groups, by developing parks and tourist
sites that would bring a "drastic change of the status quo in the city",
according to two Israeli groups.
Ir Amin, a group working for a shared Jerusalem, said the purpose of the
"confidential" plan was to link up several areas of East Jerusalem
surrounding the Old City with the goal of asserting Israeli control and
strengthening its claim to Jerusalem as its capital city. Israel
captured East Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed it, a move not
recognised by the international community.
The accounts come ahead of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI, who arrives
in Jerusalem tomorrow for a week-long pilgrimage, during which he is
likely to hear detailed concerns from Palestinians over their future in
Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Under an eight-year plan, worth 75m shekels a year (œ12m), a series of
nine national parks, trails and tourist sites based on apparent Jewish
historical spots would be established, most under the control of settler
groups working together with the Israeli government. The sites would
also create a link to Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West
Bank. The parks would be a "biblical playground" built on public and
private land and would be fenced in, the group said.
"This act will limit the possibility of territorial compromise in
Jerusalem to its northern and southern parts only, outside of areas
surrounding the Old City," said Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli lawyer and
founder of Ir Amin.
He said the programme was supported by the Israeli prime minister's
office and was being conducted without any public debate or
transparency. "This policy fans the flames of the conflict and threatens
to change it from a national conflict that can be controlled and solved,
into a pointless regional confrontation," Seidemann said.
Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital.
Palestinians, who live in the east, make up a third of the city's
Peace Now, another Israeli group, released similar information about the
plan, based on a government budget document, saying it feared the
proposal was "possibly preventing the ability to reach a two-state
An Israeli government official told AP the new development was to
benefit all Jerusalem. "The government will continue to develop
Jerusalem, development that will benefit all of Jerusalem's diverse
population and respect the different faiths and communities that
together make Jerusalem such a special city," the official said.