JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak bowed to right-wing pressure Tuesday and canceled plans to give up a West Bank village on Jerusalem's fringes to Palestinian control.
"The prime minister stresses that the unity of Jerusalem stands at the top of the list of priorities of his government," Barak's office said in a statement.
The Israeli premier's embarrassing reversal over the emotional issue of the future of the holy city came just hours after news leaked to the media that he intended to transfer control of Anata, provoking the ire of Israeli hard-liners who oppose any concessions near Jerusalem, which Israel considers its capital.
Barak's critics said the village would give Palestinians a bridgehead in their campaign to make East Jerusalem the capital of the state they hope to create.
Palestinian officials reacted with disappointment. "This is a bad indication that the government of Ehud Barak is wasting time by reversing decisions and being unable to take decisions," Palestinian Cabinet minister Ziad Abu Ziad said.
Israeli hawks flocked to Jewish settlements near Jerusalem on Tuesday to meet with worried residents after Israeli media reported that Anata, near the settlement of Pisgat Zeev, would be included in the next hand-over of West Bank land.
Israel Radio said the 6.1% hand-over, postponed since January over differences about which areas would be transferred, is expected to take place next week after maps are approved by the Israeli Cabinet.