It is as part of this backdrop, says analyst Mahdi Abdul Hadi, that Israel's move in Jerusalem is seen by Palestinians. "After Gaza, they realize they have the power to do whatever they want, and we won't be able to stop it, except for making statements and complaints," says Mr. Abdul Hadi, the head of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA.)
Silwan is considered an especially sensitive area because it lies just outside the Old City and is the Arab neighborhood closest to the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam. It has already been a contested site, as Israeli ultranationalist groups have moved Jewish settlers into the area in recent years.
Whether or not to raze what is now a residential area and turn it into a tourist site may be one of the first big political tests for Nir Barkat, who was elected mayor last November.
Mr. Barkat issued a statement Tuesday saying that no "new plans" were under way. Indeed, plans to clear out the houses to make way for an archaeological park were raised four years ago, but amid international criticism the last Jerusalem mayor shelved the plans and invited the residents to come up with their own plan for the future of the neighborhood. It was rejected last week by a city committee.
"Illegal construction is illegal construction, no matter where it is," Barkat said in the statement released by his office, declining to take direct calls from the media.