JERUSALEM – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has instructed his agents operating in Jerusalem to enhance their efforts at stopping Arabs from selling property to Jews in strategic parts of the city, WND has learned.
According to informed intelligence sources, the instructions coincided with a recent behind-the-scenes U.S. campaign the past few weeks that led to an Israeli government decision earlier this month not to bulldoze Palestinians homes built illegally on Jewish-owned property in Jerusalem.
Over the past two weeks, the PA increased its efforts to stop Jerusalem Arabs from selling property to Jews. A contingent of Jewish groups, including an organization called Ateret Kohanim, work to strengthen the Jewish presence in Jerusalem by purchasing properties from Arabs, primarily in eastern neighborhoods, including in Jerusalem’s Old City. Some of the purchased properties were Jewish until Jews fled during Arab riots in the early 1900s.
Just last week, according to informed sources, the PA forcibly detained at least five Arab Israeli citizens from Jerusalem and brought them to the West Bank city Ramallah, where they were tried in PA courts for selling property to Jews.
The sources said some of the Arab Israelis went to Ramallah on their own accord after having their families threatened by the PA. The fiasco was halted when the Israeli government stepped in and worked with the PA for the return of the Israeli Arabs to Jerusalem. The PA does not have jurisdiction to detain or try Israelis, whether Jewish or Arab.
Hatem Abdul Khader, adviser for Jerusalem Affairs of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyed, admitted in an interview that Israeli Arabs were arrested and interrogated. He called for a harsh punishment against them.
In March, the Israeli court system filed an indictment against two Israeli Arabs suspected of working in Jerusalem in senior positions for the PA intelligence. The charges against the two include setting up an intelligence system in Jerusalem to clamp down on Israeli Arabs selling property to Jews in strategic areas of the city.
WND exclusively reported last year the PA had established an intelligence apparatus in Jerusalem in part to stop Israeli Arabs from selling their homes to Jews in strategic areas of the city, according to informed security sources.
WND was first to report the PA’s Preventative Security Services had re-established an intelligence arm in Jerusalem originally formed in the 1990s by the late Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat to frustrate Jewish attempts at purchasing property from Arabs.
The intelligence arm consists of activists who work in Jerusalem to identify Israeli Arabs willing to sell land to Jews, security sources told WND last year. A potential Arab seller is warned against doing business with Jewish groups. The sources did not specify particular measures the PA might take against any Arabs working to sell property to Jews. But in the past, cases have been made public in which Arabs have been killed or tortured for such activity.
According to security sources, to ensure against land sales, the PA put together a list of wealthy Palestinian and Arab donors willing to purchase property from Jerusalem Arabs who must sell their land due to financial desperation.
Israel recaptured eastern Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest site – during the 1967 Six Day War.
A number of Arab-majority eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods widely regarded as slated for a Palestinian state include large numbers of Arabs – over 100,000 – who live on Jewish-owned land illegally. The Jewish National Fund, a U.S.-based nonprofit, owns hundred of acres of eastern Jerusalem land in which tens of thousands of Arabs illegally constructed homes the past few decades. Arabs are now the majority on the Jewish-owned land.
U.S. protesting Jewish construction
The PA is not the only agency that is monitoring Jerusalem real estate. Informed Israeli officials said the Obama administration is carefully monitoring Jewish construction in eastern Jerusalem and has already protested to the highest levels of Israeli government about evidence of housing expansion in those areas.
The officials, who spoke on condition that their names be withheld, said that last month Obama’s Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, oversaw the establishment of an apparatus based in the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem that closely monitors eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods, incorporating regular tours on a daily basis.
The officials said that in recent meetings Mitchell strongly protested Jewish construction in eastern Jerusalem. Mitchell also condemned the work of nationalist Jewish groups to purchase property in Jerusalem’s Old City, including in areas intimately tied to Judaism.
A WND investigation last month determined the U.S. has been aiding the Palestinians in developing infrastructure in eastern Jerusalem, including on property owned by Jews.
The situation has been unfolding in 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.
Much of the property there is owned by private Jewish landowners or by the Jewish National Fund, a U.S. Jewish group that purchases land for the states purpose of Jewish settlement.
A tour of the three Jerusalem neighborhoods finds 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 PA President Mahmoud 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 Kfar Akeb, Qalandiya and Samir Amis; 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.”