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Palestinians irate over new Jerusalem tram

Palestinians irate over new Jerusalem tram

Jerusalem's first light rail starts test runs this spring, with its sleek silver cars gliding across the city and promising to relieve the perpetual congestion.
But Palestinians see no reason to celebrate. They hope to derail the US$1 billion tram because they fear it will further entrench Israeli control over east Jerusalem, the part of the city they want as a capital. They've asked a French court to force two French multinationals, Veolia and Alstom, out of the project and are urging Arab countries to cancel contracts with the two companies.
The 14km line runs from Jewish west Jerusalem to the largest of several settlements Israel built in the traditionally Arab eastern sector after capturing it in 1967.
Palestinians say Israel is creating more facts on the ground with the tram, just as it has with its ever-expanding Jewish enclaves in east Jerusalem that are now home to 180,000 Israelis. "The purpose of this project is to make a bridge between the settlements ... and west Jerusalem and they use our land, Palestinian land," said Ahmed Rweidi, an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. "The train is illegal and the settlements are illegal."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he's not willing to give up any part of Jerusalem, taking a harder line than some of his predecessors, and insists Israel has the right to build anywhere in the city.
Government spokesman Mark Regev said "the light rail will serve all of Jerusalem's residents and beyond, Arab and Jew alike."
The campaign against the train is part of a wider attempt by Palestinian activists and politicians to use new ways to challenge Israeli rule over the lands they want for a state. Frustrated by the failure of nearly two decades of peace talks, they are increasingly trying to hit Israel where it hurts - the pocket book.
Palestinian security forces have been confiscating goods made in Jewish settlements from West Bank shops. Dozens of Palestinian grassroots groups have been orchestrating a "boycott Israel" campaign since 2005. Inspired by the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, they say they've gained momentum, particularly after the international outcry over Israel's war against Gaza's Hamas rulers last winter.
Israeli officials say the campaign has failed to dent Israel's economy and bristle at comparisons to apartheid-era South Africa. Jewish activists have been pushing back, branding the attempted boycott as anti-Semitic.
The fight over the rail line comes amid an especially bitter deadlock over the fate of Jerusalem. Netanyahu's refusal to stop settlement construction in east Jerusalem is one of the reasons Abbas won't resume peace talks that broke off more than a year ago.


Updated : 2021-01-19 19:51 GMT+08:00