Kolleck Defends East Jerusalem Housing Plan Against U.S. State Department Attack

There was no immediate comment from national leaders to the United States State Department’s criticism yesterday of Housing Minister Zeon Sharef’s endorsement of the controversial East Jerusalem housing plan. But Mayor Teddy Kollek said in a television interview last night that Israel had “a right that cannot be shaken” in carrying out the plan, which envisions new housing for Jews in the surrounding hills to assure a Jewish majority for the city. Kollek remarked that Israel was “trying to build a good city for all the citizens of Jerusalem regardless of any future boundaries and as befits good city planning,” and that “Whoever introduces politics brings an alien element into the question,” The section involved is formerly Arab territory captured in the Six-Day War that is subject to negotiation in the Jarring talks. State Department spokesman Robert J. McCloskey had said in Washington yesterday that the plan, which as been criticized by some architects as aesthetically undesirable, constituted “unilateral action” by Israel that would precipitately ” change the status of the city.” Meanwhile, Israeli Arabs in East Jerusalem and Ramallah, whose lands are among those requisitioned, greeted the McCloskey statement with joy. They have been hoping for sufficient American pressure on Israel to effect the return of their land.

Israel has requisitioned around 3,500 acres of Arab land in East Jerusalem since the June, 1967 war, most of it during the past six months, but only a handful of the former owners have applied for the compensation due them, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency has learned. Informed sources said they feared the scorn of fellow Arabs for dealing with “the enemy.” Some Arabs have resorted to selling their land rights to Jews who have then sought the compensation as reimbursement. In many cases, the sources said, determination of ownership is impossible, as plots have been divided and subdivided many times over generations and may have dozens of registered “owners.” One small plot, in fact, was found to have 1000 such “owners.” (In New York today, a United Nations spokesman said Secretary General Thant has been maintaining contact with Israel on the new-housing question “for some time, with a view towards Israel’s compliance with Security Council resolutions.” He would neither elaborate nor comment on Sharef’s statement. He did say, however, that the last time Thant had contacted Israel regarding new building in captured areas was a few weeks ago.)

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