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Town Planning Committee Unanimously-approves Government Master Plan for Housing

The Jerusalem Town Planning Committee headed by Mayor Teddy Kollek last night unanimously approved the government’s Master Plan for Jerusalem which it had vigorously opposed on architectural grounds only a few days ago. The move was seen here as mainly a gesture of defiance and an expression of unity in face of the unexpected American criticism of the plan on political grounds earlier this week. Controversy still surrounds the aesthetics of the Housing Ministry’s project which calls for the creation of three satellite cities around Jerusalem containing 35,000 housing units for 122,000 people. There is also a serious economic problem of employment for the new settlers inasmuch as Jerusalem is not a center of commerce or industry. The Planning Committee’s action last night will have to be approved by the entire City Council when it meets in plenary session next Sunday and will then have to get the approval of the District Planning Authority. Architects and students of architecture continued to demonstrate against the project yesterday claiming that the planned multi-family dwellings would destroy the unique character of Jerusalem. They carried slogans reading,” Jerusalem: A Jewish City, Yes, An Ugly City, No.”

The project’s political objective is to assure that united Jerusalem will have a permanent Jewish majority and will remain under Israeli control. The three satellite cities are to be built on hillsides surrounding the city. None will be located in East Jerusalem, the predominantly Arab territory occupied by Israel in the Six-Day War. But their location would make it virtually impossible to divide Jerusalem in the future into Jewish and Arab sectors. The United States has expressed sharp displeasure over the plan. State Department spokesman Robert J. McCloskey said this week. “We feel that unilateral actions that tend to be regarded as changing the status of the city–we would find that unacceptable.” The American statement surprised and angered Israelis who are hypersensitive about the status of Jerusalem and regard it as a non-negotiable item on the agenda of peace talks with the Arabs. As a result of the news from Washington, many opponents of the Housing Ministry’s project rallied to its support. Mayor Kollek, who was one of its severest critics on aesthetic grounds, declared in a television interview Tuesday that Israel had “a right that cannot be shaken” in carrying out the plan.

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