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Israeli high court rejects petitions to block Har Homa

JERUSALEM, March 19 (JTA) — Israel’s High Court of Justice has refused to block construction of a Jewish neighborhood in southeastern Jerusalem, as the Palestinian leadership called on its people to protest the building non-violently. A panel of three justices rejected Wednesday two petitions submitted by left-wing Israeli activists and Arab landowners, who argued that city planners only had considered the needs of Jewish residents in the project. The court ordered the government to provide details in two months on its decision to build for Arabs in the city. The court delayed until Thursday deliberations on a third petition, which was submitted by a Jerusalem developer who argued that land he owns was expropriated for the project. The developer, David Mir, has demanded that the land be returned, or that his own plans for building on it be adopted. At Har Homa, bulldozers continued work amid heavy security to clear an access road to the site. The project supervisor said he expected the roadwork to be completed in the next day or two, at which point larger earthmoving equipment could be brought in to begin clearing the site itself. Meanwhile, Palestinian official Faisal Husseini left a protest tent sent up near the site to meet with foreign consuls at Orient House in eastern Jerusalem on Wednesday. Though Palestinian officials appealed for peaceful protests, they warned that the situation could get out of hand. “We cannot give our people false hope, tell them things will be better when they are not,” Husseini said. At the same time, Arab condemnation of the project continued. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned Israel that the decision to build on Har Homa was bringing the region toward a new era of violence. Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat dispatched Nabil Sha’ath to Cairo for talks with the Egyptian foreign minister Amre Moussa. He also spoke by phone the previous night with Jordan’s King Hussein, as part of his efforts to coordinate positions with Arab leaders. Hussein, meanwhile, apparently still reeling from last week’s incident in which a Jordanian soldier fatally shot seven Israeli schoolgirls, engaged in a shake-up of his government. He dismissed his prime minister, Adbul Karim al-Kabariti, and replaced him with Abdul-Salam al-Majali, who brokered the 1994 peace agreement with Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, defended the decision to build. Interviewed on Israel Radio, Netanyahu said he could not envision any peace that would not allow Israel to build in Jerusalem.