The city of Yerushalayim approved on Wednesday a controversial plan to expand the neighborhood of Arab Al-Sawahre in the eastern section of the capital.
The plan calls for 2,200 housing units and over 300 acres for public spaces, including parks, roads, schools, cultural institutions and businesses.
In a statement, Mayor Nir Barkat said the plan would “strengthen Israeli sovereignty over east Yerushalayim” by curbing rampant illegal construction and upgrading the standard of living in the Arab neighborhood.
The area in question is located near Armon HaNetziv, and is home to some 27,000 Israeli Arabs.
The city’s announcement was assailed by both the right and the left.
City Councilman Aryeh King filed an administrative appeal with the Yerushalayim District Court to block the ruling, and threatened to quit the coalition if the tenders are not revoked.
“This is crazy,” King told Arutz Sheva, “and runs contrary to a previous decision not to go ahead with the program until the building committee can confirm the need for large-scale construction in Arab neighborhoods.”
King maintained that the plan also “was put forward by the leftists to establish their own demographic balance in the city, and link Area B to the downtown area — all of this without discussing the issue with the city council.”
On the other hand, Dr. Meir Margalit (Meretz), who holds the east Yerushalayim portfolio, criticized it as “too little, too late.”
“This plan was waiting for seven years for approval,” he said. “It’s good that they approved it, but it took 10 years of hard work by the developing architect to prepare [the blueprint], and another seven years for it to be approved. This is something that never happens in west Yerushalayim .”