Monday, June 21, 2010

Jerusalem revives plan to raze Palestinian homes

A Palestinian child walks near rubble in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, Monday, June 21, 2010. Jerusalem's mayor, Nir Barkat, pressed ahead Monday with a contentious plan to raze 22 Palestinian homes, that were illegally built, to make room for a tourist center that Palestinians fear would tighten Israel's grip on the city's contested eastern sector. The contested site, called al-Bustan, is a section of the larger neighborhood of Silwan, which is home to some 50,000 Palestinians and 70 Jewish families. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)

JERUSALEM — A Jerusalem planning body on Monday approved a plan to raze 22 Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem to make room for an Israeli tourist center, a decision that could raise tensions in the divided city and deepen the conflict with the Obama adminstration.

Back in March, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had pressured Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to hold up the plan so authorities could consult with Palestinians who would lose their homes — a delay that appeared to be aimed at fending off criticism from the U.S.

"Now, after fine-tuning the plan and seeking more cooperation with the residents as far as their needs and improving the quality of their lives, the municipality is ready to submit the plans for the first stage of approval," said Barkat's spokesman, Stephan Miller, before the city's planning commission agreed to the plan.

Final approval, which would require an Interior Ministry green light, could take many more months.

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