East Jerusalem
The East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan Photo by Emil Salman
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A controversial plan to raze Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem was approved by the Planning and Building Committee due to pressure by Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, despite expert opinion suggesting the plan had many flaws, documents obtained by Haaretz exposed on Monday.

According to the documents, the city's professional echelon harshly criticized the plan to raze 22 Palestinian homes to make room for a tourist center in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem, and decided that the plan is not ready to be put before the committee.

Moreover, Jerusalem sources claim that the plan was approved very quickly, which was an unusual move.

The plan calls for razing 22 Palestinian homes that were built without permits and constructing a tourism center in their place which is called Al Bustan in Arabic and Gan Hamelekh (King's Garden ) in Hebrew and is to include restaurants and boutique hotels.

The city said it will help the residents of the 22 homes slated for demolition to move to other areas of Silwan.

Mayor Nir Barkat said last week that he was dismissing city council member and Deputy Mayor Pepe Alalo, for voting against the plan in the Planning and Building Committee. The mayor also announced that he was kicking the other representatives of Meretz out of his municipal coalition as well.

According to the documents Haaretz has obtained, the department which inspects building plans prior to their submission to the planning committee found no less than 250 defects in the Silwan plan.

Moreover, just a week before the plan was approved, Jerusalem city engineer Shlomo Eshkol submitted a list of 30 criticisms of the plan, which included demands for significant changes.

Jerusalem municipality's legal adviser, attorney Yossi Havilio, also found that the plan did not meet legal standards. Because of this, Barkat privately hired lawyer to oversee the plan on behalf of the municipality.

The Jerusalem municipality said in a statement that it sees the Silwan plan as an "opportunity to revamp an area where many construction felonies exist." It also said that "the plan won't be executed before all the criticisms are taken care of, which are mostly technical ones that could be easily fixed."