Via the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, the Guardian reveals that “a confidential EU report accuses the Israeli government of using settlement expansion, house demolitions, discriminatory housing policies and the West Bank barrier as a way of ‘actively pursuing the illegal annexation’ of East Jerusalem.”
The document says Israel has accelerated its plans for East Jerusalem, and is undermining the Palestinian Authority’s credibility and weakening support for peace talks. “Israel’s actions in and around Jerusalem constitute one of the most acute challenges to Israeli-Palestinian peace-making,” says the document, EU Heads of Mission Report on East Jerusalem.
Haaretz also reports that “the dispute between the United States and Israel over the razing of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem is intensifying and will likely become the first clash between the Obama administration and the government of Benjamin Netanyahu.”
A specific controversy concerns the Jerusalem municipal government’s plan to “evict 1,500 residents and raze 88 homes in an area Israel has designated as a national park, on top of other demolition plans for the Silwan neighborhood.” The position of the U.S. is that the destruction of Palestinian homes constitutes a violation of the road map. Israeli officials say that Silwan “is a domestic issue of law enforcement and that the future status of Jerusalem is only to be discussed in the final status negotiations.”
Israel asserts that the targeted houses in Silwan were built without proper permits, but Palestinians contend that “permits are impossible to obtain and that many of the homes were built before Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967.”
On March 5, in a joint press conference with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, Secretary of State Clinton criticized the planned demolition in Silwan, calling Israel’s activities “unhelpful” and that it was “an issue that we intend to raise with the government of Israel and the Government at the municipal level in Jerusalem.”
The following day, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat “rejected” Sec. Clinton’s criticism calling it “a lot of air,” and speculating that Clinton had been misled by Palestinian “disinformation.”
Rabbis for Human Rights has research detailing how the Israeli government uses various bureaucratic measures to prevent the growth of Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem, while at the same time (as reported by Israeli human rights group B’Tselem) facilitating an increased Jewish presence in an around the city through the discriminatory enforcement of building codes.
Israeli officials may insist that “the future status of Jerusalem is only to be discussed in the final status negotiations,” but the clear goal of Israeli settlement policy is to determine as much of that status as possible in advance of negotiations through the creation of “facts on the ground” in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
In an interview last year with Middle East Progress, Lt. Col. (Res.) Ron Schatzberg of the Tel Aviv-based Economic Cooperation Foundation said “most of the Israeli public understands that the dream of keeping Jerusalem united is unrealistic.
However, there are right wing factors on our side that hinder such a development by building or buying properties in East Jerusalem. The municipality of Jerusalem encourages this phenomenon and the Israeli government provides security to the settlers, which is funded by the Israeli tax payer.
And the American taxpayer, too.
Interestingly, while Israeli Foreign Ministry officials responded to American concerns about “punitive” house demolitions by arguing that “the East Jerusalem demolitions were not punitive, but rather part of enforcing municipal building codes,” last Tuesday, Haaretz reported that Israel plans to demolish the home belonging to the extended family of Hussam Duwiyat, who stole a bulldozer in Jerusalem last July and plowed into nearby vehicles, killing three and injuring dozens. That is, not as part of enforcing municipal building codes, but rather as a punitive measure.
Last Friday, the Center for American Progress hosted Prospects for A Two-State Solution, a discussion between Brigadier General (Ret.) Ilan Paz, former head of the Isreali Civil Administration in the West Bank, and Ghaith al-Omari, advocacy director American Task Force on Palestine, and moderated by CAP’s Brian Katulis.
Omari and Paz discussed the prospects for a two -state solution under the current situation. Both panelists emphasized the important roles that the United States, economic development, and negotiations must play in the process, and the challenges that Israel and Palestine will face. [...]
Strong proactive action from the U.S. is necessary for Israel to effectively push for a two-state solution. The language coming from the Obama administration thus far has been “shockingly great” said al-Omari, “they have said all the right things.” Both Paz and al-Omari strongly praised the new administration’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, however they acknowledged that only a crisis will truly test the administration’s dynamics.