Recent evictions of Palestinian families from a key neighbourhood in Jerusalem are part of Israel's strategy to solidify its identity as a Jewish State, the city's deputy mayors have admitted.
Illegal Jewish settlers backed by Israeli forces moved to forcefully evict over a dozen Palestinian families from their ancestral homes in the historic Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem last week following court orders.
Those actions resulted in intense protests in the holy city over the past week, in which Israeli authorities brutally cracked down on the unarmed protestors and the families' resistance to the evictions, as well as conducting raids into the Al-Aqsa compound and mosque.
While Israeli officials have dismissed the issue as merely a "real estate dispute", Palestinians and many in the international community view it as an act of ethnic cleansing through the forced removal of one group of people from a specific area.
According to the New York Times, the deputy mayors of Jerusalem have now openly confirmed that. Aryeh King, a settler leader and one of the deputy mayors, said "of course" the evictions are part of the broader strategy of embedding "layers of Jews" throughout East Jerusalem.
OPINION: Israel and its illegal settlers demonstrate the reality and brutality of the occupation
As has long been suspected, that strategy "is the way to secure the future of Jerusalem as a Jewish capital for the Jewish people," and ultimately aims to prevent the eastern part of the city from becoming the capital of a future Palestinian state.
"If we will not be in big numbers and if we will not be at the right places in strategic areas in East Jerusalem," King stated, future negotiators in the peace process "will try to divide Jerusalem and to give part of Jerusalem to our enemy."
Another deputy mayor of Jerusalem, Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, gave her support for that strategy and told the paper it is essential for the preservation of the country's Jewish identity. "This is a Jewish country. There's only one. And of course, there are laws that some people may consider as favouring Jews — it's a Jewish state. It is here to protect the Jewish people."
A court hearing which would finally rule on the evictions of the Palestinian families was scheduled for today, but it has now been further postponed for another 30 days and the forced evictions have been delayed.
READ: British campaign to save Sheikh Jarrah gets 'overwhelming' response