- Title: MIDDLE EAST: Israel demolishes an Arab-built structure in East Jerusalem
- Date: 19th November 2009
- Summary: JERUSALEM (NOVEMBER 18, 2009) (AGENCY POOL) CAR CARRYING FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER BERNARD KOUCHNER ARRIVING TO ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTRY BUILDING ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER AVIGDOR LIEBERMAN WAITING FOR FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER BERNARD KOUCHNER AND LEADERS SHAKING HANDS LIEBERMAN AND KOUCHNER SHAKING HANDS NEAR NEAR FLAGS OF FRANCE AND ISRAEL (SOUNDBITE) (Hebrew) ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER AVIGDOR LIEBERMAN SAYING: ***EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: AUDIO AS INCOMING*** "I think that Gilo is an integral part of the state of Israel, an Integral part of Jerusalem just like Tel Aviv, just like Herzliya. We have no intention of interfering with internal procedure of planning commissions, and we will let the process flow in the normal course." LEADERS WALKING INTO BUILDING
- Embargoed: 4th December 2009 12:00
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVA2FEHZUG69F1F6DXSLJ9ASPI6Z
- Story Text: Israeli authorities demolish a structure built by Arab residents of East Jerusalem. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Malki says Israel is sending a negative message by planning to expand a Jerusalem area settlement. In an Arab East Jerusalem neighbourhood, American Jews gather to lay a cornerstone for a property they plan to build.
One day after Israeli authorities announced a plan to expand a settlement near Jerusalem, a move which drew criticism from the United States and Europe, Israeli authorities destroyed on Wednesday (November 18) a structure built by Arab residents in East Jerusalem.
A Jerusalem municipality spokesperson said the building was a small warehouse or shed that was built without a permit. The spokesperson said that it had been under demolition orders since 2006.
Residents of the community helped to remove items from the structure before a bulldozer destroyed the building.
"The municipality does nothing except make skeletal maps, and they can't seem to settle on any. Meanwhile, Palestinians' families are growing. Today, we built a house, while they build 900 homes, the difference between us is clear: there are plans to build 900 housing units in Gilo, in order to accommodate their so-called population growth, while our growth is not taken into account, and we have to make-do with what we have. I have no idea where the Palestinians should go," Abdel Halim Darry, the building's owner, said.
In the West Bank city of Ramallah, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Malki said the Israeli move to build 900 new housing units in Gilo, a settlement located on land Israel annexed in 1967 and included in Jerusalem's municipality, set a dangerous precedent.
"I think, you know, they are not only creating facts on the ground but also they are sending a very negative message that they are not really interested in peace and they are not really interested in ending the occupation and allowing for an independent Palestinian state. This is really how we should react to it," Al-Malki told reporters.
In another instance showing how complicated politics are in the region, a group of 50 American Jews gathered for a cornerstone laying ceremony for a property they wish to build in a largely Arab neighbourhood in east Jerusalem. The group of American Jews was met with a group of protesters from an Israeli left-wing activist group, "Peace Now."
The American-Jewish group has been on a four day tour of Israel and the West Bank. A press release from the group said they wished to send a message to U.S. President Barack Obama that "Jews have the right to live in all areas of Israel."
"To own something in the land of Israel is something very special. I have been dreaming of that all my life and finally here's a place that I am in love with. I don't want to interfere with anyone. I don't want to displace anyone. I don't want to kick anyone out of their home. I have no hate, no malice in my heart. I want to live here and I'm trying to work that out," New York state assemblyman Dov Hiskind said at the cornerstone laying ceremony.
At the Israeli Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner met with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman told reporters that the Israeli government had no plans to interfere with the plan to expand Gilo.
"I think that Gilo is an integral part of the state of Israel, an Integral part of Jerusalem just like Tel Aviv, just like Herzliya. We have no intention of interfering with internal procedure of planning commissions, and we will let the process flow in the normal course," Lieberman said.
U.S. President Barack Obama has been trying to persuade Israel to rein in settlement activity. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he would avoid expanding existing settlements, but rejects demands to stop building in Jerusalem.
Gilo, where some 40,000 Israelis live, was built on West Bank land Israel captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and later annexed as part of Jerusalem.
Some 500,000 Jews live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, also captured in 1967, among 2.7 million Palestinians.
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