By M. Gelber
Yerushalayim Mayor Nir Barkat today dismissed criticism voiced by British Prime Minister David Cameron that he was “horrified” by Israel’s supposed occupation of east Yerushalayim, saying that Cameron was not acquainted with facts and therefore came to his erroneous conclusion.
While saying that “Britain is a good and important friend of Israel and Jerusalem,” Barkat said that but Cameron “is mistaken, due to a lack of familiarity with the facts and the reality on the ground.”
“By what construction in the east of the city is he horrified? By the newest and most advanced schools that we are building there? By the new roads that we are paving there? By the medical clinics and cultural centers we have established?”
He also attacked Cameron’s singling out of Israel. “Were exactly can you see such investments, in the Palestinian Authority? In Syria? Iraq?”
He subtly mocked Cameron’s criticism when he said that “The situation residents of the east of the city is better than in many countries surrounding us, and without a doubt more than the time of the [British] mandate.”
The mayor recommended that the UK embrace a unified Yerushalayim, as the majority of Yerushalayim’s residents prefer, according to multiple international polls.
Barkat stressed that every resident of Yerushalayim can choose to live where they wish, just as the residents of London can. “Would anyone contemplate that a resident of certain religion would be prohibited from living in one of London’s neighbourhoods?” he asked, relating to the UK’s opposition to Jews living throughout Yerushalayim.
He invited Cameron, “a true friend of Israel,” to tour Israel’s capital and get a first-hand impression of the city’s efforts to promote unity among all sectors in the city, “instead of placing walls and disputes in Jerusalem’s heart.”
Cameron generated a diplomatic stir on Wednesday when he stated in parliament that he was “horrified” by Israel’s construction in Yerushalayim.
“I am well known for being a strong friend of Israel, but I have to say the first time I visited Jerusalem and had a proper tour around that wonderful city and saw what had happened with the effective encirclement of East Jerusalem, occupied East Jerusalem, it is genuinely shocking,” Cameron said, referring to his 2007 trip to Jerusalem.
“What this government has consistently done and gone on doing is saying, ‘Yes, we are supporters of Israel but we do not support illegal settlement, we do not want to support what is happening in East Jerusalem, and it’s very important that this capital city is maintained the way it was in the past,’” Cameron said.
He was responding to a question by MP Imran Hussein, who claimed he had visited the home of a woman in the Old City of Yerushalayim who was one of many people being forced out by Israelis.