J'lem Mayor Tackles Illegal Homes

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CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat inherited a wide range of thorny issues, including illegally built homes in east Jerusalem neighborhoods.

Some of the houses in the Silwan neighborhood were built on land designated for a planned archaeological park adjacent to the City of David.

"This is one of the most strategic sites in the city, on an international level, which must be an open public area," the major told The Jerusalem Post.

"We are talking about a small group who built homes on a park in an open area, where it is very fair to assume that [in the end] there will not be residential housing," the mayor said.

"I would like to see what New York City Mayor Michael] Bloomberg would say about illegal building in Central Park. Would he give up Central Park because there is illegal building there?" he asked.

Barkat said he is determined to find viable solutions to the problem of illegally constructed homes, including monetary compensation or an exchange of land.

"It is inconceivable that we will not follow the rule of law in the city," Barkat said. "The question is, how you get from the current situation to the desirable one," he said.

Barkat criticized a series of fallacious reports on home demolitions that prompted U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to call such action "unhelpful."

"The international and Arabic press was not interested in the facts," the mayor said. "The Palestinians successfully spun the story in this round, but the facts are stronger than the spin," he said.

While addressing the issues in the Arab neighborhoods, such as obtaining building permits and long-term planning, Barkat said none of it was an excuse for illegal building.

Source: The Jerusalem Post

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