Interior Minister Eli Yishai said Sunday that he was developing a plan to settle Jews in the City of David in Jerusalem. "The City of David and everywhere in Jerusalem that was the origin of our growth is our sovereign right," he said.
Yishai was speaking at a meeting with Jewish entrepreneurs who had purchased property in the east Jerusalem village of Silwan. In response, a Palestinian official said Israel's government was "a government of settlers and settlements".
Yishai spoke ahead of a Jerusalem Municipality meeting set to determine construction plans for the City of David. He promised to create a Jewish settlement alongside the Palestinian ones in the area.
The plan is a step away from former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's policy, which tended towards the relinquishing of certain areas of Jerusalem.
"Now that I have been appointed responsible for the Interior Ministry I plan to go for the City of David with full force," Yishai told the Jewish land-owners. "Every construction plan that comes must include Jewish settlement and an extensive tourism venture."
He added, "The City of David is the bedrock of our existence, the land of our sovereignty, and Jewish settlement there is our right."
However the interior minister also said he would aim to organize construction plans for Palestinians in the City of David as well as those of the Jewish land-owners.
'Yishai's announcement silly'
In response an advisor to Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told Ynet that "this proves the current government in Israel is a government of settlers and settlements, and not a government of negotiation".
Khatem Abed al-Kader went on to call Yishai's announcement "silly and dangerous", and said that they would have profound effects on Jerusalem's status quo. "The Palestinian residents of Silwan are not just going to sit by," he said.
He accused the Jewish entrepreneurs of illegally overtaking Palestinian land. "Everything is illegal and even the claims of Jewish artifacts in the area have never been proven. That's why the Israelis have gone from finding artifacts to producing them," he said.
Kader said all of east Jerusalem was Palsetinian land. "Yishai should get the term 'unified Jerusalem' out of his head because it is not and will never be unified," he added, calling on the international community to "consider this government a criminal government whose policy violates international laws and agreements".
Ali Waked contributed to this report