Defense chief criticizes Jerusalem demolition plan

Defense chief criticizes Jerusalem demolition plan
# 22 June 2010 19:41 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. Israel’s defense minister on Tuesday criticized the approval by a Jerusalem planning body for a plan to raze 22 Palestinian homes in the disputed eastern part of the city to make room for an Israeli tourist center, saying it lacked "common sense" and "a sense of timing", APA reports quoting website
Ehud Barak is in the United States for talks with the Obama administration and his statement comes after the U.S. State Department criticized the plan to build shops, restaurants, art galleries and a large community center on the site where some say the biblical King David wrote his psalms.
Mayor Nir Barkat’s office rejected the defense minister’s comments, saying the plan would rehabilitate a neglected section of the city and that he wants to build thousands of apartments for Arab residents.
In neighboring Jordan, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told reporters after talks with King Abdullah that he "categorically reject" Israel’s plan because it "is a stumbling bloc in the path of the political process." Abbas urged the U.S. to ask Israel to "stop such measures."
U.N. spokesman Richard Miron called the Jerusalem’s municipality’s decision worrying.
"We will be reminding the Israeli government of its responsibilities, and ensure that provocative steps are not taken in the city, particularly at this fragile time when the goal must be to build trust and support political negotiations," he said.
In March, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pressured Jerusalem’s mayor to hold up the plan so authorities could consult with Palestinians who would lose their homes. The delay appeared designed to fend off U.S. criticism at a time when relations are tense.
Jerusalem is the most divisive issue between Israelis and Palestinians. Israel annexed east Jerusalem after capturing it from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war and nearly 200,000 Jews have moved there since, living alongside 250,000 Palestinians in an uneasy coexistence. Palestinians hope to build the capital of a future state in east Jerusalem and see any Israeli construction there as undercutting their claims to the land.
The international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over east Jerusalem, and the U.S. wants Israel to freeze all Jewish settlement in Palestinian areas, including east Jerusalem, to facilitate Mideast peace talks.
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