JERUSALEM – Under intense American pressure, Israel has silently agreed to allow the Palestinian Authority to open official institutions in eastern sections of Jerusalem, a senior official in PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ office told WND.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office did not deny the report.
When asked whether Netanyahu agreed to allow PA institutions in Jerusalem, Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev told WND, “The prime minister’s position on Jerusalem is clear. Jerusalem will remain the united capital of Israel.”
Separately, an official from Netanyahu’s office confirmed to WND that in recent meetings, President Obama’s envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, pressed Netanyahu to freeze Jewish construction in eastern Jerusalem as a confidence-building measure to begin direct talks with PA President Abbas. U.S. National Security Adviser Jim Jones also pushed for a construction freeze, even imploring Netanyahu to quietly impose the freeze without making any public announcements.
Abbas had publicly stated he would not commence direct negotiations with Israel unless a Jewish construction freeze was imposed in eastern Jerusalem.
Speaking to WND, the Netanyahu official said the prime minister rejected any construction freeze in eastern Jerusalem, but did acquiesce to a U.S. request to allow the PA to open institutions in Jerusalem.
According to Israeli law, however, the PA cannot officially open institutions in Jerusalem. The PA previously maintained a de facto headquarters in Jerusalem, called Orient House, but the building was closed 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.
Nonetheless, and in defiance of the accords, the Palestinians in recent months have opened official institutions in eastern Jerusalem, including PA ministry offices. Israel largely took no measures to stop the institutions from opening. Now it seems Netanyahu has paved the way for more PA institutions in Jerusalem.
A WND investigation previously determined the U.S. has been aiding the Palestinians in developing infrastructure in eastern Jerusalem, including on property legally owned by Jews.
That situation has been unfolding in multiple area C neighborhoods, such as the northern Jerusalem neighborhoods of Kfar Akeb, Qalandiya and Samir Amis, which are close to the Jewish neighborhoods of Neve Yaacov and Pisgat Zeev in Israel’s capital. Kfar Akeb, Qalandiya and Samir Amis are located entirely within the Jerusalem municipality.
A tour of the Jerusalem neighborhoods during the investigation found some surprising developments. Official PA logos and placards abound, including one glaring red street sign at the entrance to the neighborhoods warning Israelis to keep out.
Another official sign, in Kfar Akeb in Jerusalem, reads in English, “Ramallah-Jerusalem Road. This project is a gift form (sic) the American people to the Palestinian people in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority and PECDAR. 2007.”
The sign bears the emblems of the American and PA governments and of the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID. The displays were not present during a previous WND tour of the neighborhoods in 2006.
Some local schools in the Jerusalem neighborhoods are officially run by the PA – some in conjunction with the U.N. – with many teachers drawing PA salaries. Civil disputes are usually settled not in Israeli courts but by the PA judicial system, although at times Israeli courts are used, depending on the matter.
Councils governed by Abbas’ Fatah organization oversee some municipal matters. USAID provides the PA funds for road and infrastructure projects.
Israeli security officials said the local Jerusalem police rarely operate in peripheral eastern Jerusalem Arab neighborhoods. Instead, security has been turned over to the Israel Defense Forces and Border Police, who work almost daily with PA security forces. The PA police operate in the Jerusalem neighborhoods in coordination with Israel.
Shmulik Ben Ruby, spokesman for the Jerusalem police, confirmed the arrangement.
“If there are fights between some local families, sometimes we involve the PA police to make peace between the families,” he told WND. “Yes, the PA police can operate in these neighborhoods in coordination with the IDF and Border Police.”
Dmitri Ziliani, a spokesman for the Jerusalem section of Fatah, confirmed to WND the Palestinians have set up local command in some 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 PA holds regular official meetings in Jerusalem in anticipation of a future Palestinian state encompassing all of eastern Jerusalem.
“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.