Just a few hours after the White House stated its opposition to increasing anti-missile defense aid to Israel, the Jerusalem Local Planning and Building Council approved a controversial building permit in Silwan. The three-story building is owned by Ateret Cohanim and was supposed to be discussed two weeks ago, but was removed from the agenda due to political pressures.
This issue was categorized as the 70th item on today's agenda, but the head of Local Planning and Building Council, Meir Turgeman, filling in for the mayor, decided to raise the issue at beginning of today's discussions in the presence of two members of the council, Yisrael Karlman and Yohanan Weizmann, who belong to Haredi factions. The three approved the building permit.
Laura Wharton, a member of the city council for Meretz, claims that this issue was underhanded opportunism. She said, "The council's decision today was an additional scandal at the initiative of the Jerusalem Municipality, intended to cause an uproar and to express trust in the head of the extremist right wing head of the city controlling it and to advance on the ground plans that cover up all plans for peace and international law. We are talking about a political plan that doesn't abide by professional criteria."
Wharton said, "Turgeman insisted on modifying the agenda to move up the subject of Silwan to the first item, even though he knew that the topic is problematic and controversial. It's not for nothing that it's been postponed and not debated in the past. It's a shame that there isn’t someone who will stop the unruly behavior in the city that is letting down its residents and endangering the small amount of quiet and our standing in the world. The municipality has turned into a circus, and we all will suffer from anarchy."
On the other hand, the lawyer Eldad Rabinovitch said on behalf of those requesting building permits from Ateret Cohanim, "We congratulate the Jerusalem Municipality on its approval of building permits on Jewish land in Kfar Shiluach (the Hebrew name for 'Silwan' —ed.). This is an act of historic justice with the settlement that began the First Aliyah and since has undergone turmoil and difficult periods. We believe that this approval constitutes a clear statement of the intention of the Jerusalem Municipality to develop its neighborhood for the welfare of all its residents."
Ir Amim, an organization that works to promote equality in Jerusalem said, "The Netanyahu government has allowed another harmful step in one of the most sensitive areas of Jerusalem. It is making clear to the citizens of the state and the world its determination to ensure the failure of all political agreements and its lack interest in improving the status of Jerusalem."
The Jerusalem Municipality responded "Jerusalem is a single, unified city, and every resident has the right to live where they wish regardless of religion, race, or sex, as long as they do so legally. Therefore, we do not intend to discriminate in any way against any buildings owned by Jews in Arab neighborhoods."
The response continued, "As was said two weeks ago, the request for the construction permit in Silwan came up for discussion in the local committee, and it was determined that several technical and professional failures needed to be fixed, and that the plan would go to the local council this week. The municipality will continue to approve construction and building every neighborhood in the city according to the plans outlined. Jews and Arabs will be treated the same, including in this instance.
The Jerusalem municipality added, "In light of the fact that the plans were discussed two weeks ago and were returned for revisions, it will be discussed at the top of the agenda."