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Government move would cement rightist group's control of Jerusalem national park

Elad, which manages the City of David national park, is active in 'Judaization' of East Jerusalem.

by Zafrir Rinat and Nir Hasson

Haaretz 27 July 2011

The government and a group of MKs led by Yisrael Hasson (Kadima) this week renewed the process to approve an amendment to the National Parks Law that would permit park lands to be transferred to private corporations.

The amendment is intended to, among other things, authorize the activities of the Elad association which manages the City of David (Walls Around Jerusalem) national park.

City of David National Park entrance     photo by Emil Salman

Leftist groups claim that control of the park, which overlooks a large part of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, will allow Elad to deepen its activities promoting the "Judaization" of the area.

Also, the Israel Union for Environmental Defense vehemently attacked the move, saying it endangers public assets.

On Sunday, the ministerial legislative committee approved a proposal to amend the National Parks Law to allow for the transfer of park lands to non-profit entities, including private corporations that "perpetuate historic, archaeological, architectural and natural values".

The proposal was supposed to undergo a preliminary reading on Wednesday.

The Ir Amim group has petitioned the High Court of Justice against Elad's continued management of the national park. The petition argued that Elad operates mainly to expand Jewish presence in Arab neighborhoods.

Elad, on the other hand, points to its success in managing the park. Under Elad, the park has become one of the most popular in Israel, with around half a million annual visitors.