Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres toured Jerusalem’s Arab sector Monday and promised equal treatment to the city’s Palestinians, who accuse the government of doing less for them than for Jewish residents.
Peres was the first Israeli prime minister to make such a tour of the sector since it was captured from Jordan in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, a government spokesman said.
He heard numerous complaints, ranging from crowded classrooms to inadequate public lighting and poor road maintenance.
Peres told about 50 Palestinian schoolteachers and neighborhood leaders that the government will do all it can to provide equal assistance to the Arab and Jewish sides of the Israeli capital.
Jerusalem’s 120,000 Palestinians, most of them Jordanian citizens, tended to set themselves apart from Israeli rule. Israeli political leaders have paid comparatively little attention to them because they cannot vote in parliamentary elections. Although Palestinians vote in city elections, none has run for the city council.
“If they were represented on the council, they would not be (regarded as) loyal Arabs,” said Mayor Teddy Kollek, who escorted Peres on a daylong trip through the city of 400,000. “We have to represent them, and it’s not easy.”