Israel to extend freeze of Jewish construction
Also expected to hand Palestinians security control of strategic
Posted: September 15, 2010
12:43 am Eastern
By Aaron Klein
News from Israel
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas shake hands before the second round of direct peace talks
in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, September 14, 2010. Egyptian President Hosni
Mubarak is hosting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud
Abbas in the Sinai resort town for peace talks. UPI/Debbie Hill Photo
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will partially extend a
freeze on Jewish construction in the West Bank and will implement a de
facto freeze in some eastern Jerusalem communities, according to
sources in the Israeli government.
Palestinian Authority officials, meanwhile, they received a U.S. pledge
that Israel will free a number of Palestinian prisoners as well as
transfer to the PA security control of several West Bank areas in the
coming months as part of a series of Israeli gestures to the PA.
Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas and Netanyahu convened held a series of talks in the
Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh. The negotiations continue
today with the aim of forging an agreement within a year that will lead
to the creation of a Palestinian state.
The U.S. called on Netanyahu to extend a freeze on settlement
construction in the West Bank. As a U.S.-imposed precondition for
negotiations, Netanyahu in late 2009 had agreed to a 10-month West Bank
construction moratorium that is set to expire at the end of the month.
The Israeli leader had repeatedly claimed he will not extend the freeze
beyond the 10-month period.
While Netanyahu has not made any public statements regarding a freeze
extension, the Israeli government sources said that Netanyahu will not
allow any new Jewish construction into the foreseeable future in the
West Bank or eastern sections of Jerusalem, excluding what are known as
the three main settlement blocs – Gush Etzion, Maale Adumin and Ariel.
PA officials, meanwhile, said the U.S. has been negotiating the borders
of a future Palestinian state that would see Israel eventually withdraw
from most of the West Bank and some areas of eastern Jerusalem with the
exception of the three blocs.
While the PA does not believe it will see an actual Palestinian state
within a year, it expects in that time it will take over many more
neighborhoods in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem that are normally
controlled on the ground by Israel.
The PA said the expectation is based on pledges by the Obama
administration. They said The U.S. received a pledge from Netanyahu to
transfer more security control of West Bank towns as well as release a
number of Palestinian prisoners as gestures to entice Abbas to stay in
Netanyahu, meanwhile, secretly has proposed a new plan whereby Jews
living in the West Bank will remain in their communities after the
territory becomes part of a Palestinian state, it was reported last
Officials in both Israel and the PA have confirmed the plan, marking
the first time an Israeli leader has ever put on the table in a serious
way a proposal involving Jewish West Bank residents remaining in a
Conventional negotiations always have assumed an Israeli evacuation of
its communities inside any territory taken over by the PA.
Middle East officials said the plan is being considered seriously by
the Obama administration, while the PA has been less than enthusiastic.
PA sources said they held a meeting last week over the plan.
The full details of the plan, such as specific security guarantees for
the remaining Jews, were not disclosed.
It was unclear how the Jewish residents of the West Bank will react to
a plan that would seemingly place their security in the hands of the
PA, whose militia members have carried out scores of attacks targeting
those very Jewish communities.
Abbas has been on record multiple times speaking against Jews living in
a Palestinian state.
Last month, Abbas drew condemnation from U.S. Jewish groups when he was
quoted stating that not only must a Palestinian state be Jew-free, not
even foreign Jews can serve in any NATO force that protect a future
"I'm willing to agree to a third party that would supervise the
agreement, such as NATO forces, but I would not agree to having Jews
among the NATO forces, or that there will live among us even a single
Israeli on Palestinian land," he was quoted as saying by Wafa, the
official Palestinian news agency.
After his comments caused controversy, Abbas' aide, Nimar Hamad, told
Wafa that "Abbas is open to an international force along Palestinian
borders of any religion or origin."
Netanyahu last week alluded to new proposals in peace negotiations.
Debriefing his cabinet on his recent trip to Washington, Netanyahu
stated, "What is required is creative, novel thinking in order to
resolve these complex issues."
Ahead of the start of a Mideast summit in Washington earlier this
month, the Israeli government publicly conceded sections of Jerusalem
will become part of a Palestinian state while holy sites would be
governed by a "special regime."
Speaking in an interview with Israel's Haaretz newspaper, Defense
Minister Ehud Barak outlined a deal with the Palestinians: "West
Jerusalem and 12 Jewish neighborhoods that are home to 200,000
residents will be ours. The Arab neighborhoods in which close to a
quarter million Palestinians live will be theirs.
"There will be a special regime in place along with agreed upon
arrangements in the Old City, the Mount of Olives and the City of
David," added Barak.
Barak told the newspaper what is needed "is courage to make historic,
painful decisions. I'm not saying that there is certainty for success,
but there is a chance. This chance must be exploited to the fullest."
Israel annexed northern and eastern Jerusalem, including the Old City
and the Temple Mount, 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. Many of
Jerusalem's Arabs live illegally on Jewish-owned property
An investigation previously 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. Over 100,000 Arabs live in those
Jews lived in Kfar Akeb, Qalandiya and Samir Amis years before the
establishment of Israel in 1948, but they were violently expelled
during deadly Arab riots in 1929.
Jordan, together with other Arab countries, attacked Israel after its
founding in 1948 and administered the three Jerusalem neighborhoods as
well as all of eastern Jerusalem following an armistice agreement. In
1967, Jordan attacked again, and Israel liberated the entire city of
Jerusalem in the Six-Day War. During the period of Jordanian control,
some new construction took place, including in areas previously
purchased by Jews.
A tour of the three Jerusalem neighborhoods 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 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
"If there are fights between some local families, sometimes we involve
the PA police to make peace between the families," he said. "Yes, the
PA police can operate in these neighborhoods in coordination with the
IDF and Border Police."
U.S. Jewish group to blame for 'division'?
Key land in Qalandiya and Kfar Akeb is owned by the Jewish National
Fund, which over the years has allowed tens of thousands of Arabs to
illegally squat on its land, resulting in the current Arab majority.
The organization bought the land in the early 1920s using Jewish donor
funds for the specific purpose of Jewish settlement.
But the JNF lands have been utilized for the illegal construction of
dozens of Arab apartment buildings, a refugee camp and a U.N. school.
A previous tour of Qalandiya and Kfar Akeb found dozens of Arab
apartment complexes, a Palestinian refugee camp and a U.N. school for
Palestinians constructed on the land.
According to officials in Israel's Housing Ministry, Arabs first
constructed facilities illegally in Qalandiya and Kfar Akeb between
1948 and 1967, prior to the 1967 Six-Day War during which Israel retook
control of the entire city of Jerusalem.
Qalandiya, still owned by JNF, came under the management of the Israeli
government's Land Authority in the late 1960s.
Israeli Housing Ministry officials say the bulk of illegal Arab
construction in Qalandiya occurred in the past 20 years, with
construction of several new Arab apartment complexes taking place in
just the past two years.
Neither the Israeli government nor JNF took any concrete measures to
stop the illegal building, which continues today with at least one
apartment complex in Qalandiya under construction.
Land in another Jerusalem' neighborhood, Shoafat, which has an
estimated value of $3 million, was also purchased by JNF in the early
1900s and fell under the management of the Israel Land Authority about
40 years ago. Much of the illegal Arab construction in Shoafat took
place in the past 15 years, with some apartment complexes built as late
In Qalandiya and Shoafat, Israel's security fence cordons off the Arab
sections of the JNF lands from the rest of Jewish Jerusalem.
Internal JNF documents obtained by us outline illegal Arab construction
on the Jewish-owned land. A December 2000 survey of Qalandiya
summarized on JNF stationery and signed by a JNF worker states, "In a
lot of the plots I find Arabs are living and building illegally and
also working the JNF land without permission."
The JNF survey goes on to document illegal construction of Arab
apartment complexes and the U.N. school under the property management
of Israel's Land Authority.