Daily Israel Report

New US-Israel Crisis Looms over Jerusalem Park

The US said Monday it is “concerned over Jerusalem’s plan to destroy illegally built Arab homes to make way for a park." PA: A dangerous step.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 6/21/2010, 10:22 PM / Last Update: 6/21/2010, 10:10 PM

Another crisis between the Netanyahu and Obama administrations looms over housing in Jerusalem, this time because of Jerusalem’s plan to wreck 22 illegally built Arab homes to make way for an archaeological park. The Jerusalem municipality proposal also calls for making legal 66 other Arab buildings built without permits.

The U.S. State Department said Monday afternoon it is “concerned” over the plan that “we think undermines the trust that is fundamental in making progress to the proximity talks and ultimately in direct negotiations.”

Chief Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat called on foreign countries to “halt these dangerous steps [that] prove that Israel has decided to destroy the indirect talks" with the Palestinian Authority.

The American and Israeli governments are rebounding from the crisis that broke out in March when the Israeli Interior Ministry approved an additional step in a lengthy bureaucratic process for 1,600 new housing units in the Jewish neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo. The announcement coincided with the arrival of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

The apartment project and the proposed park both are located in areas of Jerusalem that the Palestinian Authority demands to be under its sovereignty in its proposed new Arab state, with Jerusalem as a divided capital.

Another similarity between Ramat Shlomo and the park project is that both of them are a long time away from final approval. "This is a preliminary planning procedure and it still gives time, more than enough time, for dialogue to continue between the municipal authorities and residents of the neighborhood in the hope an agreed solution can be found,” said Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev.