Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek today urged the United States to merge its two consular offices in Israel's capital to demonstrate that, despite Carter administration condemnation of Israeli settlement plans here, Jerusalem should not become a divided city.
Kollek was critical of Israel's expropriation yesterday of 1,000 acres of Arab land northeast of Jerusalem but also said U.S. State Department statements deploring Israel's action would "create tension" in the city.
"He [President Carter] could take practical steps for creating a unified city. Couldn't one make the first step and unite [the American consulates] tomorrow and show by this the U.S. government is interested in one city, and not dividing it," Kollek declared on Israel radio.
The United States maintains two consular offices here, one in West Jerusalem for the consul general and this deputy and the other in East Jerusalem, which was annexed by Israel in 1967, after the Six-Day War. The East Jerusalem consulate primarily processes visa requests from Palestinian Arabs who live in that part of the city and in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The State Department's condemmation of the land expropriation, which is designed to close a gap between the Jewish housing projects of Neve Yaacov and French Hill on the outskirts of the city, continues to cause concern among Israeli officials, some of whom interpret it as a shift in American policy. U.S. policy consistently has favored an undivided Jerusalem, while holding that the final status of city should be negotiated.
The land expropriated yesterday includes an unfinished summer palace built for Jordan's King Hussein on a hill overlooking Jerusalem shortly before the 1967 war. It also reportedly includes some currently occupied Arab houses, although Israel's Housing Ministry has refused to disclose what property is involved.
Israeli Foreign Ministry officials said today that the government is preparing a response to U.S. criticism of the expropriation, but that it has not yet received an official protest from the State Department.
Kollek said he supported the land expropriation "in principle," but that the decision was "ill-timed and ill-planned."'
"One should have made clear from the very first . . . the impression what benefits this would give to Jews as well as Arabs," he said. "Otherwise, the door is open to misinterpretation,"' area originally called for the construction of Arab houses as well as Jewish apartments.
The expropraition has been widely interpreted as an attempt to tighten the circle of Israeli housing around Jerusalem, making a political division of the city impossible.