Road to Shechem
Road to Shechem Garrett Mills/Flash 90

(JTA) -- The Boulder City Council in Colorado agreed to hire a moderator in the dispute over its planned sister-city relationship with the Palestinian city of Shechem (Nablus).

At its meeting Tuesday night, the council agreed to spend the $5,000 allocated annually for the Sister Cities program and up to $5,000 more on the mediation. The council will also convene a citizen panel for a discussion between local proponents and opponents of the plan.

The request to hire the mediator came from the Boulder-Nablus Sister City Project, which had asked the council to postpone a public hearing on the project after fears it would turn contentious, the Boulder Daily Camera reported.

A 2013 sister-city plan with Nablus failed a City Council vote after four hours of debate described as emotional.

Proponents of the project told the Daily Camera they engaged in "hundreds of hours" of outreach to opponents before bringing the proposal back to the City Council.

"We were really kind of taken aback to find that they did not shift their views very much," Essrea Cherin, president of the Boulder-Nablus Sister City Project, told The Associated Press.

Opponents say the project has a political agenda, citing comments by proponents that described Palestinian suffering under the "Israeli occupation."

A city spokeswoman said the council received about 200 emails in the run-up to Tuesday night's meeting, some in support of the sister-city relationship and some saying it is not the city's place to resolve the dispute between the sides.

An official sister-city relationship would require City Council approval. The city's rules for such relationships require neutrality, according to the AP.

Boulder has seven sister cities and Nablus has 11 similar relationships, including with Nazareth, Israel.