Barkat to suspend Silwan plan at PM's request
Following harsh criticism drawn by plan to demolish houses in Jerusalem Arab neighborhood, Netanyahu says to mayor, 'Opportunistic figures would like to provoke argument and strife to present twisted picture of reality to Israel and world.' Barkat agrees, says talks with residents will continue
About an hour before Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat intended to present his full plan for the al-Bustan neighborhood in Silwan, which is in the city's east, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked him Tuesday to allot more time to try and reach an understanding with the Silwan residents regarding demloshing their houses for the project.
Barkat heeded the prime minister's request.
Netanyahu emphasized to Barkat that he does not intend to intervene in the management of the city's affairs, nor in the jurisdiction placed in the hands of the law enforcement and building and planning officials.
The prime minister brought to Barkat's attention the existence of opportunistic figures "who would like to provoke argument and strife and present a distorted picture of reality in Jerusalem to Israel and the world."
The Jerusalem municipality said, "After a talk with the prime minister, Barkat heeded Netanyahu's request to continue to make efforts to exhaust the process with the residents in the 'King Park' project. Barkat noted that the discussion in the local committee will be postponed.
"In the meantime, the talks and meetings with the residents will continue," the municipality said. The press conference during which Barkat on presenting his plan will be held as scheduled.
According to Barkat's plan, some 20 houses spread along the western part of the Silwan neighborhood will be demolished so that an archeological park can be built on their lots. In exchange, the evacuated residents will receive permits to rebuild up to four storeys high in the neighborhood's eastern section.
In the neighborhood, there are currently 88 buildings that were built without the proper building permits. They are at the center of one of the most sensitive disputes in Jerusalem, which has naturally taken on a national nature. The city hinted on more than one occasion that these buildings will not be allowed to remain standing in their current capacity.
Part of the plan also retroactively issues building permits to a number of other houses.
Earlier Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority warned against implementing the plan. Hatem Abdel Kader, who holds the Jerusalem portfolio in the Fatah movement said to Ynet, "Nir Barkat will bear responsibility for the outbreak that will take place in the city I his plan is carried out."
Ronen Medzini contributed to this report