Monday, May 04, 2009
Shas Digs in on Jewish Rights
Hana Levi Julian
Interior Minister Eli Yishai announced Sunday that he plans to develop Jerusalem's City of David into a Jewish residential area. The area has been the source of a rich treasure of archaeological artifacts dating back to the Second Temple period, many of them documenting events that are noted in Jewish sacred and historical texts.
The statement earned the outrage of Palestinian Authority officials, who called the Netanyahu coalition a "government of settlers and settlements, and not a government of negotiation."
Khatem Abed al-Kader, an aide to PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, was quoted by the Hebrew-language daily Yediot Acharonot as saying the Interior Minister's words were "silly and dangerous."
Peace Now organization head Yariv Oppenheimer also expressed anger and fear that Yishai's plans would set off a new round of violence from disgruntled Arabs.
"Minister Yishai wants to destroy a chance to reach a future compromise between Israel and the Muslim world and make the Jerusalem issue unsolvable," he charged. "His fiery statements may set the entire region on fire and lead Israel to the start of a new intifada."
The Shas party chairman shared his plans with Jewish business owners prior to a meeting at the Jerusalem municipality that was set to decide on building plans for the area.
Yishai told the entrepreneurs that he intends to build Jewish neighborhoods next to existing Arab neighborhoods, adding that he also intends to create construction plans in the area for Arabs as well.
"Every building plan that comes must include Jewish settlement and an extensive tourism venture," he declared. "The City of David is the bedrock of our existence, the land of our sovereignty, and Jewish settlement there is our right."
All of the participants in the meeting were property owners who had purchased land in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood, also known by its Arabic name, Silwan.
Al-Kader warned in a veiled threat that the Arab residents of Silwan "are not just going to sit by." He also claimed that the land purchases were invalid. "Everything is illegal and even the claims of Jewish artifacts in the area have never been proven," he charged.
"Yishai should get the term 'unified Jerusalem' out of his head because it is not and will never be unified," al-Kader stated.