Intifada fans can breathe a little more easily.
Just when it seemed as though no amount of building in Israel’s settlements and harsh statements at the United Nations by the country’s foreign minister could truly provoke new violence between Israelis and Palestinians, the Jerusalem municipality came up with something guaranteed to steam up some hotheads.
The city’s planning committee is considering a proposal to build an underground parking lot for the Old City by breaching the 16th-century walls of Suleiman the Magnificent and digging into the rock beneath the ancient Jewish Quarter.
“This is illegal,” said Ghassan Khatib, director of the Palestinian Authority’s government media center in Ramallah. “These illegal changes would provoke the Palestinians and many others, Muslims and Christians. This will aggravate the tension between Israelis and Palestinians and have a negative effect on current international efforts to renew the political process.”
Over the years, Palestinians and Islamists have called for violence to protect, as they put it, the Old City from alleged Israeli plots to undermine it and bring the Aqsa Mosque, considered the third holiest shrine in Islam, tumbling down. Such conspiracies always seemed somewhat far-fetched, though nonetheless effective for all that.
This time, Jerusalem’s city government seems set on mirroring some aspects of the most vivid Palestinian paranoia.