JERUSALEM (Nov. 20)
Palestinian officials have launched protests against Israel’s recent formation of a ministerial committee to oversee development in eastern Jerusalem.
The committee will seek to bring the level of services in eastern Jerusalem up to par with those in the western portion of the city, according to Public Security Minister Avigdor Kahalani, who heads the committee.
But Palestinian officials counter that the true purpose of the committee is to strengthen Israeli sovereignty over the entire city.
“We are going to support the [Jerusalem] municipality and the mayor to build many things” in the eastern portion of the city, Kahalani told Israel Radio.
“We are not going to control the [Muslim] religious places and we are not going to convince the Muslim to be a Zionist,” he added.
Asked if Israel was trying to create facts on the ground prior to the final- status negotiations regarding the future status of Jerusalem, Kahalani responded, “We have decided that Jerusalem will be united forever, and this is the capital of Israel.”
Members of the committee have proposed opening another Israeli police station and branches of government offices in eastern Jerusalem, as well as building a new sewage system, repaving roads and building more classrooms there, according to the Israeli daily Ha’aretz.
Meanwhile, a group known as the Jerusalem Lobby held its first meeting Wednesday in the Knesset.
Arab Knesset members refused to join the discussions, after other legislators rejected their demand that the lobby, which is slated to address social and cultural issues relating to Jerusalem, also address Palestinian claims to the city.
All members of the lobby must accept that “Jerusalem is the united capital of Israel,” Likud Knesset member Reuven Rivlin told Israel Radio.