Jerusalem mayor talks tough: Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat endorsed Thursday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's stance vis-à-vis the US, saying that construction in the capital is highly important and will continue.
"I want to make it clear, also to our best friend, the United States, that construction in Jerusalem is more important than anywhere else," the mayor said at the opening of a city council session. "There is no (construction) freeze in Jerusalem. We shall continue to build in the city's east and west."
"The city keeps developing and it has needs," he added. "Jerusalem is home to 800,000 residents. We'll reach a million in 20 years. We are planning the expansion of neighborhoods for both Jewish and Arab residents in the fairest way."
Barkat also lauded PM Netanyahu for "safeguarding Jerusalem during his Washington visit."
The mayor was applauded by council members at the end of his address, with the exception of two councilmen who expressed reservations over his message.
Meretz Councilman Dr. Meir Margalit said: "I wish to make clear that this statement is not endorsed by the Meretz faction. You can say that the city is united, yet in practice the city is divided and it will be partitioned in the framework of a peace treaty."
'There's nothing new here'
The mayor's comments follow a recent announcement by Jerusalem's City Hall regarding the approval of construction at the Shepherd Hotel compound in east Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarah neighborhood.
However, City Hall officials continue to insist that the Shepherd Hotel project has already been approved in July of last year, arguing that the latest approval was merely technical and insignificant.
Notably, the latest permit granted for the initiative was signed by the Jerusalem city engineer, as well as by the chairman of the local zoning committee, who also serves as Barkat's deputy.
Jerusalem's City Hall issued the following statement: "There is nothing new here. As we made clear in the past, the plan was approved in a final and absolute manner at the local committee back in July 2009. After the project's entrepreneurs paid the fees on March 15 of this year, a merely technical permit was produced and signed."