Jerusalem Affairs Minister, Zeev Elkin, unveiled his proposal for the municipal division of Jerusalem, which Proposes Reducing the number of Palestinians in Jerusalem and several Palestinian neighborhoods beyond the Apartheid Wall will be split off from the Jerusalem municipality and placed under the jurisdiction of one or more new council administrations.
The move will require the approval of the Israeli PM Netanyahu and the completion of various legislative amendments.
This is the first attempt to reduce the municipal area of Jerusalem since it was illegally annexed in a move considered illegal by the international law. After the Six-Day War in 1967. It is also the first attempt to establish an Israeli local council whose inhabitants are not Israeli citizens, but rather Palestinians with the status of permanent residents only.
The Palestinian neighborhoods beyond the Apartheid Wall are Shuafat Refugee Camp and Kafr Aqab, as well as Walajah and a small part of the neighborhood of Sawahra.
It is estimated that between 100,000 and 150,000, one-third to one-half of whom have Israeli identity cards and residency status. Since the construction of the Apartheid Wall some 13 years ago (the wall at Walajah is currently being completed), these areas have been cut off from Jerusalem, though they still come under the its jurisdiction.
“The current system has completely failed,” Elkin said. But at the moment, there are two municipal areas – Jerusalem and these neighborhoods, and the connection between them is very loose. The army can’t formally act there, the police go in only for operations, and the area has become a no-man’s-land, Providing services of any kind has become dangerous, and tall buildings and such high density as this can’t even be seen in Tel Aviv.”
Elkin is concerned with the rapid demographic growth in these areas, and its impact on the balance between Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem.
According to Elkin, cheap housing, proximity to Jerusalem and the lawlessness prevailing there have made these neighborhoods a magnet for people from Jerusalem and the West Bank. “There are also dramatic impacts in terms of the Jewish majority and because you can’t improve the standard of living there.
Elkin said various solutions had previously been examined in order to tackle the problem. In terms of security and ideologically, the minister said he rejected solutions such as handing the neighborhoods over to the Palestinian Authority. He also rejected changing the route of the separation barrier for security, financial and legal reasons.
Elkin said the legislation would be completed in November and would then be presented to Netanyahu. If the prime minister, who is aware of the details of the plan, supports it, it could move ahead quickly. Legally, the plan does not require Knesset legislation, but only a decision by the interior minister.
The Palestinian Authority is expected to oppose the plan, seeing it as an attempt to increase the number of Jews in Jerusalem
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