Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Ze'ev Elkin (Likud) is promoting a plan to remove Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem located on the other side of the separation barrier from the city's jurisdiction and instead create a new local council to address the Arab residents' needs.
"No one is dividing Jerusalem," Elkin stressed in an interview with Ynet on Sunday.
"I propose a move that won't undermine the sovereign status of the territory, as opposed to other plans I believe are suicidal," he continued, referring to proposals that would see the city divided into a western Jewish territory and an eastern Arab territory. "I propose to do this on a municipal level in light of the reality that exists on the ground today."
Are you aware some of the neighborhoods would not be part of the municipal framework of Jerusalem?
"These are Arab neighborhoods that were left on the other side of the separation wall at the time it was built, as part of a very strange decision to erect it within the municipal area of Jerusalem.
"It created an impossible situation there that cannot continue as it is today. There is an inability to provide services for the residents there, and on the other hand, it created a situation of uncontrollable immigration into Jerusalem, because no barrier separates these neighborhoods from areas under the Palestinian Authority.
"What I propose is to take these neighborhoods and group them under a new local council, which will be under Israeli sovereignty; another Arab authority."
According to Elkin, the area beyond the separation wall is a no-man's land. "The police rarely enter there, the municipality and the state do not provide services there because it is too dangerous. You could build skyscrapers there as there is no supervision, or migrate there freely from the PA," he lamented.
"Therefore, because of this unique situation, the right solution is to establish a separate municipal authority that would take care of these neighborhoods, establish services within them so they do not have to cross the separation barrier, and eliminate a threat that is very significant to the Jewish majority in Jerusalem due to the unchecked illegal immigration."
Elkin says that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is familiar with his idea. "He has yet to decide on his position. There will be a serious discussion on it, and he will formulate his position following it."
Israel erected the West Bank separation barrier in Jerusalem between 2004-2005, cutting off Kafr Aqab, the Shuafat refugee camp and the neighborhoods of Ras Khamis, Ras Shehadeh and Anata from Jerusalem.
Because there has been supervision over those neighborhoods by the Jerusalem Municipality following the construction of the barrier, hundreds of illegal structures were built there in recent years, serving as a cheap alternative to housing in Jerusalem. These neighborhoods are consequently plagued with overcrowding, poverty, crime and the lack of proper infrastructures.