Israel objects to opening a school in East Jerusalem, claiming it would endanger a nearby Border Police base that was built in the neighborhood, Army Radio reported Wednesday morning.
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The school, which was to be built by a private entrepreneur in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, was to consist of four floors and 39 classrooms, from kindergarten to high school. The city supported the plan due to the acute shortage of schools in the capital’s Arab community.
Recently however, the Finance Ministry’s Government Housing Administration submitted an objection to the school, arguing that since its location is 20 meters from a Border Police base, it “could constitute a threat to the facility and its combatants.”
“The government has found a new excuse to prevent building schools in East Jerusalem,” the Ir Amim NGO said in response. “First Israel builds a military base in a Palestinian neighborhood, then, impertinently, it infringes on the neighborhood’s children’s basic right to education.”
“The mayor has a duty to make sure the plan is approved and that Sheikh Jarrah gets a much needed school” the NGO said.
Jerusalem’s Planning and Building Committee met Wednesday to discuss the state’s objection. “The proposed proximity and height differences are a security threat and will require several additional security measures,” according to the objection.
The city engineer recommended to the committee to reduce the building’s height and make the base’s fence higher.
The Knesset’s Education Committee last week held a special debate on the shortage of classrooms in East Jerusalem, as a High Court of Justice ultimatum in the matter draws to a close. In February 2011 the High Court gave the government and Jerusalem municipality five years to find enough classroom space for East Jerusalem children, or the government will have to pay private schools to take care of the matter.
The ruling was in response to a petition filed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel on behalf of parents who could not register their children in the city’s public-school system because of a lack of classrooms. ACRI says the shortage means many children must be turned away each year.
Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Tamir Nir of the Jerusalemites faction, who is also a member of the Planning and Building Committee, said Wednesday “as public envoys we are committed to see to all the residents’ needs, without discrimination. The shortage of classrooms and schools in East Jerusalem is acute and known to all.”
“The plan enables building a school and kindergartens on a private plot. The authorities must avoid political considerations that prevent fulfilling an existing need. We must think of ways to achieve an adequate solution,” he said.