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Israel plan to ‘strengthen’ Jerusalem

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JERUSALEM-WORLD HERITAGEThe Israeli cabinet announced a set of decisions aimed to “strengthen” the city of Jerusalem and arrange special events in 2017 on the 50th anniversary of the city’s unification.

The decisions were announced in a special cabinet meeting held at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem in celebration of “Jerusalem Day”, which marks the day in the 1967 Mideast War in which Israel seized east Jerusalem, then controlled by Jordan, and finally took control of the whole city, Xinhua news agency reported.

“We will not go back to a divided city, a torn city, a city with barbed wire fences and snipers on the wall,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, admitting the presence of some “distress”, referring to the mounting tensions between Palestinians and Jews in the city.

The plan announced by the cabinet includes steps to economically develop the city between the years of 2016 and 2020. But the cabinet did not elaborate on the size of the budget for this purpose.

It also includes a plan to revamp the city’s infrastructure, promote tourism to the Western Wall plaza, which lies near the controversial Temple Mount site (holy to both Jews and Muslims), and continue archeological digs and preservation in the area, which may increase the tensions between Jews and Arabs in the area.

Another aspect of the plan is to celebrate in 2017 the 50th anniversary of the annexation of east Jerusalem, in what Israel dubs as the unification of the city. These events will be held in fields of tourism, education, culture and sports, especially with the Jewish Olympic Maccabiah games scheduled to take place that year.

During the 1967 War, Israel annexed east Jerusalem, which includes neighbourhoods where more than 300,000 Palestinians currently live.

Palestinians living in east Jerusalem maintain residency but cannot vote or be elected in the national elections. They live in generally poor conditions and receive poor services from the municipality and the state.