JERUSALEM (Feb. 21)
The controversial housing plan to build three satellite cities around Jerusalem was tonight adopted unanimously by the City Council. There was only one abstention. A resolution adopted by the Council stated that the municipality regarded the rapid building up of the Jerusalem area as a national project of prime importance. It added that in view of this importance it was the government’s duty to bear the burden of establishing the infrastructure required for the new housing developments. The plan calls for three areas around Jerusalem containing 35,000 housing units for 122,000 people. These areas are East Jerusalem, where the Government House is currently the seat of the United Nations here; the area of Sharafat; and the Nabi Sawwil area. The plans have come under attack from architects and town planners who claim the multi-family dwellings would destroy the unique character of Jerusalem. In addition, the U.S. State Department expressed its displeasure last week by noting that the plans’ “unilateral actions” tend to be regarded “as changing the status of the city” at a time when the Jarring talks are under way and the futures of the city has to be decided in the peace talks.
Mayor Teddy Kollek, in his address to the Council, said that the criticism levelled at the building plans had not contained any denial of the need to build housing but had only concerned itself with the methods. He added that where it was felt necessary to change the city’s master plan for aesthetic reasons it should be amended. Kollek, However, took issue with the approach by the Housing Minister, Zeev Sharef, for pressing for the adoption of his ministry’s mass housing construction even over the opposition of the municipality. Kollek said that the question of the future shape of the city was the city’s prerogative. It was Sharef’s announcement last week that the housing plan was essentially an effort to assure a Jewish majority in that city and for Jerusalem to remain a united city under Israeli control, that led to the State Department criticism. (At the United Nations, Secretary General U Thant criticized Israel, in a report to the Security Council last Thursday released last Friday, for what he termed her failure to confirm that construction efforts in Jerusalem are not affecting the Government House. Israel’s Ambassador Yosef Tekoah declared in a press statement, not a message to Thant, that construction efforts in Jerusalem “in no way” affect Government House. He said that since the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, “the city’s development has made great strides (and has) benefited all residents of the city.”)