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Obama officials step up monitoring of Jews

TEL AVIV – The Obama administration in recent weeks has stepped up its monitoring of Jewish construction projects in eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, WND has learned.

Obama has called for a complete halt to what he calls settlement activity, meaning Jewish construction in eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a 10-month freeze on new Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria, also known as the West Bank.

WND reported in August Obama’s Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, oversaw the establishment of an enhanced apparatus based in the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem that closely monitors Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods, incorporating regular tours of the areas.

Palestinian Authority officials told WND yesterday the consulate stepped up its monitoring efforts in recent weeks, at times collecting information on Jewish construction on a daily basis.

Previously, under the Bush administration, the consulate kept a general eye on Jewish Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria 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 who is aware of the U.S. government’s construction-monitoring activities.

Jewish leaders in Judea and Samaria previously told WND the consulate takes no pains to hide its 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 Judea and Samaria, told WND in August.

“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.

Yesterday, Ha’ivri told WND he received phone calls from an official in the U.S. consulate asking him about recent activities as well as Netanyahu’s construction freeze.

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.

Netanyahu last week said Israel would not stop construction in eastern Jerusalem and would still allow the building of Judea and Samaria synagogues, kindergartens and necessary municipal structures.

Describing the decision as a “painful step,” Netanyahu announced he was “taking the issue out of broad national security considerations with the goal of renewing negotiations to achieve peace with our neighbors, the Palestinians.”

Never in the history of regional talks here did restarting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations depend on any freeze of Jewish construction. The issue largely began after President Obama demanded Jewish construction be halted in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem, leading to a hardening of the PA’s bargaining position.

Judea and Samaria borders major Israeli cities and is within rocket-firing range of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Israel’s international airport.

Military strategists long have estimated Israel must maintain Judea and Samaria to defend itself from any ground invasion. Terrorist groups have warned if Israel withdraws, they will launch rockets from the West Bank into Israeli cities.