Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with President Obama in the Oval Office in May (White House photo).
JERUSALEM – In a statement to WND, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office today objected to U.S. condemnation of the Israeli government for enforcing property law in Jerusalem by evicting Arabs from a Jewish housing complex they purportedly had been illegally occupying for almost a century.
“The eviction yesterday in Jerusalem was a result of a ruling by our Supreme Court that had to decide in a dispute between two parties over the legal control of a property,” Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev, told WND.
Continued Regev: “The Supreme Court ruled for one side and not the other. In all democracies the rulings of the courts must be upheld, and it is incumbent on the executive branch to implement such decisions.”
Regev said the Israeli Supreme Court “is renowned internationally for both its independence and its professionalism. There are countless examples of the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Palestinians in land disputes.”
Washington today condemned the Arab evictions. State Department spokeswoman Megan Mattson said such actions in eastern Jerusalem constitute violations of Israel’s obligations under the U.S.-backed “Road Map” peace plan.
“Unilateral actions taken by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations and will not be recognized by the international community,” she said in a statement.
Much of the U.S. and international media the past two days have been reporting on Israel’s eviction of Arab families from a house in eastern Jerusalem. Many of the reports failed to provide proper background regarding why the Arabs were kicked out of the home.
The housing complex is located in the Sheik Jarra neighborhood of eastern Jerusalem. The home was originally Jewish, but its Jewish occupants were chased out during countrywide anti-Jewish Arab riots in 1929. Arabs then squatted on the property, with one family, the Hejazi family, becoming the de facto occupants despite never having purchased the property.
Even though documentation shows the complex is owned by Jews and that Arabs have been squatting on it illegally for almost a century, Jewish groups say they still legally re-purchased the property from the Hejazi family.
Following pressure from the Palestinian Authority, however, the family later denied selling the complex back to the Jews despite documentation and other evidence showing the sale went through.
The PA in April warned Palestinians against selling their homes or properties to Jews, saying those who violate the order would be accused of “high treason” – a charge that carries the death penalty.
Israel’s court system twice ruled the property in question belongs to Jews.
Articles on the topic by Agence France-Presse and Reuters use the terms “occupied” and “East Jerusalem” to describe the area in which the house is located. Reuters called it “occupied Arab East Jerusalem.”
According to international law, however, eastern sections of Jerusalem are not “occupied” but “disputed.” Referring to the area as “Arab East Jerusalem” presupposes the outcome of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that have yet to take place and ignores British documentation that authenticates Jews outnumbered Arabs in eastern Jerusalem from the 19th century until Jews were expelled by Arabs in 1929.
The use of the term “East Jerusalem” is widespread. Historically, however, there was never any separation between eastern and western Jerusalem. The terminology came after Jordan occupied the eastern section of the city, including the Temple Mount, from 1947 until it used the territory to attack the Jewish state in 1967. Israel reunited Jerusalem when it won the 1967 Six Day War, although the Palestinians claim eastern sections for a future capital. .
The eviction of squatting Arabs from a Jewish-owned property in Jerusalem follows recent demands by the Obama administration for Israel to halt all “settlement activity,” meaning Jewish construction, in Jerusalem and the strategic West Bank.
Last month, Israel’s ambassador to Washington was summoned by the State Department to demand a Jewish construction project in eastern Jerusalem be immediately halted.
The construction project at the center of attention, financed by Miami Beach philanthropist Irving Moskowitz, is located just yards from Israel’s national police headquarters and other government ministries. It is a few blocks from the country’s prestigious Hebrew University, underscoring the centrality of the Jewish real estate being condemned by the U.S.
Netanyahu strongly rejected the State Department demand, telling a cabinet meeting Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem was not a matter up for discussion.
“Imagine what would happen if someone were to suggest Jews could not live in or purchase [property] in certain neighborhoods in London, New York, Paris or Rome,” he said just after his ambassador was summoned.
“The international community would certainly raise protest. Likewise, we cannot accept such a ruling on East Jerusalem,” Netanyahu told ministers.