NEW YORK (AFP) – The mayor of Jerusalem, a rising star in Israeli politics, has vowed that the city would never be divided to allow the eastern side to become the capital of a future Palestinian state.
“It’s not going to happen, it’s not natural, it’s the wrong thing to do from any perspective,” mayor Nir Barkat said during a visit to New York.
Barkat also joined government rejections of international criticism of an historic east Jerusalem hotel to make way for settler homes.
UN leader Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both strongly condemned the demolition of the Shepherd’s Hotel. Ban said the action would “heighten tensions.”
But Barkat called their comments “shallow” and said they should visit Jerusalem before speaking out.
The demolition of the hotel on Sunday to make way for luxury apartments for Jewish settlers in occupied East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of any future independent state.
“Not only for the Jewish people, but for the world, it would be a big mistake to go that route, in advance we know that there is not one example of a working model of a split city,” Barkat told a group of reporters. “Therefore it is not on the table.”
The mayor said the Shepherd’s Hotel was “owned legally, by Jewish owners, they have asked to develop the land according to the zoning code, with no extra demands or requests. They have been granted permission like they would be in any city, in any country in the world.”
Palestinians have refused to take part in direct talks with Israel since Israel ended a freeze on settlement building in the occupied territories. But Barkat argued that “Arab neighbors” could also get permits to build under Israeli law.
“Anybody trying to freeze by race — its anti-constitutional, it is double standards and it is not acceptable,” Barkat said.
A spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said the demolition of the hotel had “ended any possibility of a return to (peace) negotiations.”
Barkat, an independent, has been mayor of Jerusalem for two years and has been tipped by analysts as a probable member of a future right wing government.