JERUSALEM – The Obama administration has set up an apparatus to closely monitor Jewish construction in Jerusalem and the strategic West Bank to the point of watching Israeli moves house-to-house in certain key neighborhoods, WND has learned.
Obama has called for a complete halt to what he refers to as settlement activity, meaning Jewish construction in eastern Jerusalem or the West Bank. Obama’s edict extends to natural growth, or accommodating for the housing needs of existing local settler population centers. The demand is an apparent abrogation of a deal Israel struck with the Bush administration to allow natural growth.
For the past few months, Obama’s Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, has protested to the highest levels of the Israeli government about evidence found of any Jewish housing expansion in those areas, informed Israeli officials said.
The officials, who spoke on condition that their names be withheld, said that last March Mitchell oversaw the establishment of an enhanced apparatus based in the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem that closely monitors the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods, incorporating regular tours of the areas, at times on a daily basis.
Previously, under the Bush administration, the consulate kept a general eye on Jewish Jerusalem and West Bank construction, receiving much of its information from nongovernmental organizations.
“Mitchell’s apparatus takes things to a whole new level. They are watching very closely,” said an Israeli official.
Jewish leaders in the West Bank said the consulate takes no pains to hide their activities.
“They come out. They tour our communities. They try to interact with our leadership,” David Ha’ivri, spokesmen for the Shomron Regional Council in the West Bank, told WND.
“They drive around the towns, check up on what’s going on. They try to mingle with us to get more information on what we’re up to and what we’re doing,” he said.
Ha’ivri said the consular officials present themselves as advisers to the U.S. consul-general.
“But we know they are really spies for the Obama administration,” he said.
Jerusalem officials affirm the consular staff report to Obama’s envoy, Mitchell.
The U.S. the past few weeks has been publicly protesting Israeli actions in Jerusalem on the municipal level, making an international incident out of individual homes. Yesterday, for the second time the past few weeks, the Obama administration summoned Israel’s ambassador to Washington to protest Israel asserting its municipal rights in eastern sections of Jerusalem which the Palestinians claim as a future capital.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman summoned Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, with a message that the Obama administration views the eviction Sunday of two Palestinian families from homes in eastern Jerusalem as “provocative” and “unacceptable.”
In the case, Israel last week enforced its own property law in Jerusalem by evicting Arabs from a Jewish housing complex they purportedly had been illegally occupying for almost a century.
Oren reportedly responded today by explaining that the housing complex has been Jewish-owned since before Israel’s founding in 1948. Oren explained a court ordered the families’ eviction since they had been living there illegally.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week also denounced the evictions, calling them “deeply regrettable” during a joint press conference in Washington with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.
Much of the U.S. and international media the past few days have been reporting on Israel’s eviction of Arab families from a house in eastern Jerusalem.
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 belongs to Jews.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office earlier this week released a statement to WND objecting to U.S. condemnation of the Israeli government for enforcing property law in Jerusalem.
“The eviction 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.”
Yesterday marked the second time the past three weeks Israel’s ambassador has been summoned by Washington to protest Israeli conduct in eastern Jerusalem. Last month, Oren was summoned by the State Department to demand a Jewish construction project in eastern Jerusalem be immediately halted.
The construction project, 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 eastern Jerusalem,” Netanyahu told ministers.