JERUSALEM – President Obama and his administration told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during a meeting last week the U.S. foresees the creation of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, according to a top PA official speaking to WND.
“The American administration was very friendly to the position of the PA,” said Nimer Hamad, Abbas’ senior political adviser.
“Abu Mazen (Abbas) heard from Obama and his administration in a very categorical way that a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital is in the American national and security interest,” Hamad said.
Another PA official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told WND today that Obama informed Abbas he would not let Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “get in the way” of normalizing U.S. relations with the Arab and greater Muslim world.
“We were told from this new administration they will not allow a Netanyahu government to hurt their efforts of rehabilitating U.S. relations with the Arab and Islamic world, which is a high priority of Obama,” the official said, speaking during a visit to Cairo.
Also in Cairo today, Abbas met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, where the Palestinian leader briefed Egypt’s president on his recent trip to Washington, saying the U.S. was committed to bringing about an end to Israeli construction in the West Bank.
Hamad’s comments about Jerusalem today come as controversy abounded regarding the U.S. position on Israel’s capital city.
Last week, the State Department refuted a speech in which Netanyahu said Jerusalem never will be divided.
“Jerusalem is Israel’s capital,” Netanyahu said at an event marking Jerusalem’s reunification. “Jerusalem was always ours and will always be ours. It will never again be partitioned and divided.”
In response, the State Department released a statement that Jerusalem “is a final status issue.”
“Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to resolve its status during negotiations. We will support their efforts to reach agreements on all final status issues,” the statement said.
Also last week, a top Palestinian Authority official claimed in a WND interview that the Obama administration told the PA that Jerusalem will never be united under Israeli sovereignty.
“Americans said an open Jerusalem – yes. But a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty – no,” Hatem Abdel Khader, the PA’s minister for Jerusalem affairs, said in comments to both WND and Israel’s Ynetnews website.
“(The Obama administration) has made clear that Jerusalem must be accessible to everyone – but not united under Israel’s rule,” Khader said.
Khader claimed the U.S. is cooperating with the PA to “thwart Israel’s plans in Jerusalem.”
“When they collaborate with us in Israeli courts against home demolitions or the confiscation of land we see their attitude,” he said.
Khader told WND, “The Americans are very present on the ground, and they are making pressure over Israeli authorities and even municipalities.”
“They are acting according to the concept that the failure to establish a Palestinian state would jeopardize U.S. national security interests – and without Jerusalem there is no Palestinian state,” he said.
U.S. helps Palestinians live illegally near Temple Mount
Khader’s claim the U.S. is helping the Palestinians gain a foothold in Jerusalem is accurate. In April, WND reported that under intense American pressure and following a nearly unprecedented behind-the-scenes U.S. campaign, the Netanyahu government has decided not to bulldoze Palestinian homes built illegally on Jewish-owned property in Jerusalem.
The issue is critical since the 80 homes in question are located in Silwan, an eastern Jerusalem neighborhood close to the Temple Mount and Jerusalem’s Old City that the Palestinians claim as a future capital. Jewish groups have been working to fortify the community’s Jewish presence. Silwan is adjacent to the City of David, a massive archeological dig just outside the Temple Mount that is constantly turning up Temple artifacts.
Like tens of thousands of other Arab housing projects throughout eastern Jerusalem, the Palestinian homes in Silwan were illegally constructed on property long ago purchased by Jews. The Israeli government ordered the structures’ legal demolition.
But during a visit here in early March, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton strongly protested the planned bulldozing.
“Clearly this kind of activity is unhelpful and not in keeping with the obligations entered into under the Road Map,” she said. “It is an issue that we intend to raise with the government of Israel and the government at the municipal level in Jerusalem.”
The Road Map calls for Israel to freeze Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank but does not bar Israel from dismantling illegally constructed Palestinian homes in Jerusalem.
WND learned that in the weeks since Clinton’s visit here, the U.S. mounted an intensive campaign lobbying the Israeli government against tearing down the illegal Palestinian homes in Silwan. The campaign included letters from the Middle East section of the State Department addressed to various Jerusalem municipalities, with copies of the letters sent to the offices of Israel’s prime minister and foreign minister. The letters called on Israel to allow the illegal Palestinian homes in Silwan to remain and stated any demolitions would not foster an atmosphere of peace.
Also, in a follow-up visit here, State Department officials made it clear to their Israeli counterparts the U.S. opposes the Silwan bulldozing.
According to sources in the Israeli government, including in Netanyahu’s administration, a decision has been made not to bulldoze the illegal Palestinian homes. The sources said the issue of the homes may be raised again in the future, but for the time being the houses will remain intact.
The sources attributed the decision against the bulldozing – which has not yet been announced – to the intense American campaign against the house demolitions.
Said one source in Netanyahu’s administration, “This was very frustrating to us. Can you imagine if a foreign government came in and told a city office in the U.S. not to tear down a house that was illegally constructed on someone else’s property?”
While Clinton opposed the Palestinian house demolitions, 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.
Israel recaptured eastern Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest site – during the 1967 Six Day War.
The Palestinians, however, have claimed eastern Jerusalem as a future capital. About 244,000 Arabs live in Jerusalem, mostly in eastern neighborhoods, out of a total population of 724,000, the majority Jewish.
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