Jerusalem (AFP) - The Israeli government has secret plans to surround Jerusalems Old City with sites under its control to strengthen its hold on the divided city, a rights group said on Sunday. The aim is to put in place in coordination with ultra-nationalist settler groups nine biblical parks, focusing almost exclusively on the ancient Jewish past of the city, said Daniel Seidemann, a founder of the Ir Amim advocacy group. The plan includes the demolition of Palestinian homes built without building permits and ignores the Muslim archaeological sites in occupied east Jerusalem, the lawyer told AFP. The plan, which has the support of the offices of the Jerusalem mayor and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, aims to surround the Old City with parks, trails and tourist sites under Israeli control, in a drastic change of the status quo in the city, Ir Amir said in a statement. The status of Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive topics in the decades-old Middle East conflict, with Israel claiming the city as its eternal, undivided capital, a position not recognised by the international community. Palestinians hoping to make the mostly Arab eastern part of the city, which has been occupied by Israel for more than four decades and contains sites holy to Christians, Jews and Muslims, the capital of their promised state. The programme is sponsored secretly by the office of the prime minister and the mayor of Jerusalem, not only without public discussions, but without the existence of the project even publicly known, Ir Amim said. The project is due to be carried out by the Jerusalem Development Authority, which submitted a report on its plans to the prime ministers office in September 2008. According to that report, the objective of the plan is to create a sequence of parks surrounding the Old City in order to strengthen Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel. This policy risks pouring oil on the flames by transforming a national conflict into a religious one, playing the game of nationalist (Jewish) extremists Siedemann said. When asked to comment on the report, a spokesman for the prime ministers office said: Jerusalem has been the eternal capital of Jewish people for some 3,000 years and will remain the united capital of the state of Israel. The government will continue to develop Jerusalem, development that will benefit all of Jerusalems diverse population and respect the different faiths and communities that together make Jerusalem such a special city. The Jerusalem mayors office declined to immediately comment and there was no immediate reaction from the development authority. The report comes a week before Netanyahu, Israels hawkish premier, is due to meet US President Barack Obama in Washington. Israeli actions in east Jerusalem which it captured in 1967 and later annexed is one of the main points of discord between Obamas administration and Netanyahus largely right-wing cabinet. On her first official visit to Israel and the occupied West Bank in March, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton slammed Israeli plans to raze homes built without permits in east Jerusalem as unhelpful and a matter of deep concern.