Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat made a rare visit to the Palestinian refugee camp Shoafat, in East Jerusalem, Tuesday. Residents said it was Barkat’s first visit, but the mayor’s office said he had been there a few times in the past.
Barkat came to the camp as part of his campaign against the activities of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in the city. Before the mayor’s visit, and for the first time since the city was unified in the wake of the 1967 Six-Day War, municipal sanitation crews came to the camp to clean up.
The city said its sanitation department will take over from the UN agency in cleaning Shoafat. “As part of Mayor Barkat’s plan, the municipality, in coordination with the government, will gradually replace all the failing services now given through UNRWA in sanitation, education, welfare and health, with Jerusalem municipal services.
The entry of municipal sanitation workers, which began today, is the first step in instituting the program, which is within the full authority of the municipality and does not depend on government ministries,” the municipality said.
According to Barkat’s plan, made public about two weeks ago, all UNRWA schools, clinics and welfare services in East Jerusalem will be closed. “The United States doesn’t want UNRWA, Israel doesn’t want UNRWA and the residents don’t want UNRWA,” the mayor said.
“For 10 years as mayor Nir Barkat has refused to provide services to the neighborhoods on the other side of the separation barrier and to the tens of thousands of Jerusalemites who live there. During his time the situation in these neighborhoods has severely deteriorated. Without waste collection, with collapsing infrastructure and without personal security.
The visit today is a politician’s trick that has nothing to offer except public relations at the expense of the weakest population under our responsibility,” said Aviv Tatarsky of Ir Amim, a nonprofit organization focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Jerusalem.