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After escaping flotilla uproar, Israel faces new flap over Jerusalem

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The decision comes just as Israel tries to tamp down the diplomatic uproar from the fatal intercept of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, and two weeks before Netanyahu is scheduled to visit the White House.

'I don't think Netanyahu approved this'

To build a park and commercial center southeast of the Old City, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat wants to demolish 22 Silwan homes, which the municipality says are illegally built, and provide alternative housing for Palestinians. The prime minister's office has pushed for a compromise with the affected residents, who oppose the plan.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat accused Israel of wrecking peace negotiations and called on the international community to stop the "dangerous'' Israeli steps, while US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley warned against unilateral decision that would prejudice peace talks on the final status of Jerusalem. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Netanyahu sought to distance themselves from the Jerusalem municipal decision.

"The purpose was not for planning, it was political,'' says council member Pepe Alalo, who lost his title as deputy mayor for opposing the decision. "I don't think that Netanyahu gave this approval. [Mayor] Barkat is trying to outflank Netanyahu on the right.''

De facto building moratorium in East Jerusalem

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