JERUSALEM – The Palestinian Authority held the latest in a series of official meetings in Jerusalem to discuss dealing with expected Palestinian sovereignty over key sections of the city, WND has learned.
Dmitri Ziliani, a spokesman for the Jerusalem section of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party, told WND this week’s meeting was related to the activities and structure of Fatah’s local command in eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem.
“We were covering the best ways to improve our performance on the street and how we can be of service to the community,” Ziliani said.
Ziliani said the regular PA meetings in Jerusalem are, in part, held in anticipation of a future Palestinian state encompassing all of eastern Jerusalem.
The Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest site – is located in the eastern section of the city.
“Our political program as Fatah dictates there will be no Palestinian state if these areas – all of east Jerusalem – are not included,” Ziliani told WND.
According to sources present at this week’s PA meeting in Jerusalem, also discussed were plans to convene the Sixth Fatah General Congress sometime this year, possibly within the next two months. At the meeting, likely to take place in Jordan, hundreds of voting Fatah members are slated to discuss the future of their party and pass official resolutions outlining Fatah’s major objectives.
WND previously quoted senior PA sources stating Fatah plans to vote at the Sixth Congress on a resolution affirming the “armed struggle” and “resistance” against Israel as part of its official objective.
The Congress was last held in 1989 in Tunisia, prior to any Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. At the time, the Congress, led by late Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat, officially resolved to continue “to intensify and escalate armed action and all forms of armed struggle to liquidate the Zionist occupation from our occupied Palestinian land and guarantee our people’s rights to freedom and independence.”
Israel had hoped under Abbas and amid intense negotiations that the Sixth Congress would moderate the party’s objectives.
This week’s meeting in Jerusalem was the latest in a series of official PA gatherings in Israel’s capital since last November’s U.S.-backed Annapolis summit, which aimed to create a Palestinian state before the end of this year.
While Israel has not officially approved the PA’s presence in Jerusalem, Palestinian diplomatic sources claimed there was an unwritten agreement in which Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office pledged not to interrupt some PA activities in Jerusalem.
According to Israeli law, the PA cannot officially meet in Jerusalem. The PA previously maintained a de facto headquarters in Jerusalem, called Orient House, but the building was closed down by Israel in 2001 following a series of suicide bombings in Jerusalem. Israel said it had information indicating the House was used to plan and fund terrorism.
Thousands of documents and copies of bank certificates and checks captured by Israel from Orient House – including many documents obtained by WND – showed the offices were used to finance terrorism, including direct payments to the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group.
WND previously broke the story Palestinian officials last year urged the U.S. to support what they said was a key demand allowing the PA to open official institutions in Jerusalem and to reopen Orient House to serve as its Jerusalem headquarters.
The U.S. brought the request to Olmert last November, but according to sources in Jerusalem, Israeli officials replied that for domestic political reasons Olmert was waiting to allow the PA to have any official presence in Jerusalem.
Olmert repeatedly has denied Jerusalem is being negotiated during regular, U.S.-backed Israeli-Palestinian sessions.
But PA President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian leaders recently stated Jerusalem is being negotiated.
“[Talks deal with] all the core issues without exception: Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, borders and security. We hope to achieve a settlement in 2008; there are many obstacles but we hope they will be removed. We are all pressing to reach a settlement by the target date,” Abbas said in March.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has hinted several times Jerusalem is up for discussion.
In December, Israeli Vice Premier Haim Ramon said the country “must” give up sections of Jerusalem for a future Palestinian state, even conceding the Palestinians can rename Jerusalem “to whatever they want.”
“We must come today and say, friends, the Jewish neighborhoods, including Har Homa, will remain under Israeli sovereignty, and the Arab neighborhoods will be the Palestinian capital, which they will call Jerusalem or whatever they want,” said Ramon in an interview.
Positions held by Ramon, a ranking member of Olmert’s Kadima party, are largely considered to be reflective of Israeli government policy.
Olmert himself last year questioned whether it was “really necessary” to retain Arab-majority eastern sections of Jerusalem.
Israel recaptured eastern Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, during the 1967 Six Day War. The Palestinians have claimed eastern Jerusalem as a future capital; the area has large Arab neighborhoods, a significant Jewish population and sites holy to Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
About 231,000 Arabs live in Jerusalem, mostly in eastern neighborhoods, and many reside in illegally constructed complexes. The city has an estimated total population of 724,000.
To interview Aaron Klein, contact M. Sliwa Public Relations by e-mail, or call 973-272-2861 or 212-202-4453.