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Israeli officials devising plan to expand capital’s boundaries

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JERUSALEM, May 12 (JTA) — Israeli officials are secretly considering plans to expand the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. Disclosure of the plans came after Interior Minister Eli Suissa, a member of the fervently Orthodox Shas Party, said Israel should consider annexing outlying communities such as Ma’aleh Adumim, Givat Ze’ev, Betar and the Etzion settlement bloc, making them part of a Greater Jerusalem municipality. Senior political officials involved in planning the greater metropolitan area view it as an important move prior to the final-status negotiations with the Palestinians, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported this week. In a reflection of the political sensitivity of the move, Suissa responded to an inquiry about the plans by saying it was “better not to discuss it.” In an April 16 speech, Suissa said Israel should consider incorporating the areas outside of the city’s municipal boundaries. He said he saw no reason for places such as Ma’aleh Adumim or Givat Ze’ev to be separate municipal areas. Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert also refused to comment on the Ha’aretz report. The team drawing up the plans does not have the mandate to take legal steps toward expanding Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries, a matter that requires Knesset action. A source involved in the plan said Israel should not be idle where Jerusalem is concerned, given Palestinian aspirations to assume control over parts of the city.

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