Mayor Nir Barkat is promoting the plans, which require the demolition of 22 illegally-built homes. In exchange, the Arabs who reside in these homes will receive permits to build new homes legally on the other side of the neighborhood, at their expense. In addition, the 66 other homes in the neighborhood will be legalized retroactively.
Judge Yoram Noam said that according the municipality's plans, there was no need to raze the homes yet. But municipality officials say the approval would take up to two years. "We will meet again when the plans are approved in 2012-2013. Debating it today is just unnecessary," Noam said at the hearing.
Arab residents of al-Bustan have also filed construction plans of their own, and the planning and construction committee will have to decide between the two.
"I am pleased with the judge's decision not to carry out the demolitions," said Dr. Ziyad Kawar, who represents the residents. He said the plans they have offered will turn the neighborhood into "a nice place to visit, with infrastructure, coffee shops, hotels, paths, and running water".
'Al-Bustan lacks infrastructure, schools'
Kawar added that he believes the municipality will end up demolishing more than the 22 homes it has so far listed "because the archaeological-national-religious park Nir Barkat wants to establish requires demolishing many more (homes)".
"It's unfortunate that the Jerusalem Municipality is ignoring the suffering and neglect the residents must deal with in addition to the lack of infrastructure, roads, and schools. It is an unacceptable reality for people to dream at night of bulldozers come to destroy their homes," he said.
Amnon Merhav, Jerusalem Municipality's legal consultant, told a crowd of upset men and women from al-Bustan that the plans for the park will improve the quality of life for many of the city's residents.
Regarding claims that the residents do not have the money to rebuild their homes on the other side of the neighborhood, Merhav said the municipality would discuss the issue after the plans are approved and that residents are invited to "negotiate the matter".
"In any case, they are currently building homes so they must have most of the resources," he said, defining the problem as "solely hypothetical".
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