Tourism Minister Uzi Landau (Likud Beyteinu) issued a strongly-worded warning on Wednesday over Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz’s (Hatnua) announcement last week that he is freezing plans for a national park in Jerusalem.
The park in question was to be built on Mount Scopus (Har Hatzofim). The plans had caused anger in nearby Arab neighborhoods, where it was widely perceived as a move aimed at preventing the neighborhoods’ expansion.
Peretz, who previously condemned Jewish construction in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, argued that his decision to freeze the park was not political. The area simply lacks unique features that would justify turning it into a park, he argued.
The decision was entirely political, Landau accused. “Peres made his decision for political reasons, as a result of pressure from left-wing groups,” he wrote in a letter to the Prime Minister’s Office.
The park was defined as a national park in buildings plans beginning decades ago, he said. “Peretz’s decision thwarts decisions that were made through legal venues, upends the planning and development process, and is a waste of public money and a bad example of what management should be,” he charged.
“It is also strange in that it contradicts the essence of his ministry, which involves protecting nature,” Landau added.
The decision is likely to have a serious impact on Israel’s long-term interests, he warned. “The Environmental Protection Minister’s decision is likely to undermine Israel’s interests in the current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. It could invite pressure to split Jerusalem,” he stated.
The Palestinian Authority has demanded all Jerusalem neighborhoods east of the 1949 armistice line, including the Old City and Temple Mount, as the capital of a new Arab state.
Landau concluded his letter by asking Netanyahu to hold an urgent cabinet meeting in which ministers could vote to overturn Peretz’s decision.