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Israelis ‘dig in’ in Jerusalem

Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a recent event in Tel Aviv. (Reuters)
AMMAN: As US officials are busy working on the ultimate deal with regional countries, Israel appears to be working overtime to strengthen its entrenchment in Jerusalem, local Palestinian leaders say.
Palestinian map expert Khalil Tawfkji told Arab News that a late-Thursday decision by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to expel Palestinian Bedouins from Jerusalem’s outskirts was a de facto annexing of the West Bank’s largest settlement Maale Adumim.
“It is part of the Greater Jerusalem scheme that will include annexing Maale Adumim to Israel and adding more settlers to east Jerusalem.”
Netanyahu’s decision, according to the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, came during a meeting with the Jerusalem Perimeter Forum and the Binyamin Regional Council on Thursday.
“Netanyahu ordered the removal of the Bedouin encampments pitched along Highway 1, leading from Jerusalem down to the Dead Sea,” the Israeli news website Ynetnews said.
Mahdi Abdul Hadi, founder and director of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA), told Arab News that the Israeli actions in Jerusalem have three strategic goals.
“They aim to empty Jerusalem of its indigenous Palestinians, strengthen Jewish settlements and reject any Palestinian national or religious connection to Jerusalem.”
But Abdul Hadi said that the Netanyahu government, like previous Israeli administrations, will fail.
“Fifty years of Israeli occupation and subjection have failed. Solutions that aim at dividing Palestinian lands, making Jerusalem more Israeli or even international will fail because of the steadfastness of the Palestinian people on their land.”
On Sunday, a Palestinian home in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Essawiyeh was demolished and on Wednesday the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem demolished a residential structure in the same neighborhood.
The structure, made of metals, was installed by Omar Dari, a local citizen who said he was forced to build without a permit to shelter his family after he was unable to obtain a permit from the municipality, the Palestinian official news agency Wafa reported.
PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi strongly protested the Israeli action.
She described Israeli policies as “colonization, ethnic cleansing and theft” of Palestinian land, resources and lives.
“The unlawful acts reinforce Israel’s intent to change the facts on the ground and systematically eradicate the Palestinian presence from the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem),” Ashrawi said.
Jamal Ghosheh, executive director of Al-Hilal sports and culture club in Jerusalem, told Arab News that Jerusalem was is in dire need of support.
“While Jerusalem is unique, today it is sad. Issues affecting it need to be discussed courageously. We need a national strategy and the political will to work on it.” Gosheh said that a huge gap exists between predominately Arab east and Israeli west Jerusalem.
“We are talking about survival and sustainability while they are talking about high tech and digital neighborhoods.”
Ghosheh told Arab News that housing is still a big problem in Jerusalem, especially for newlyweds.
“Newlywed couples are having a hard time finding house to live in. A small apartment costs no less than $300,000. Education is facing real difficulties.”
The Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zee’ve Elkin is considering introducing a bill into the Knesset that would turn areas such as Kufr Aqab into Israeli-controlled local councils to weaken Palestinian municipal voting powers.
Since 1967 Palestinians in East Jerusalem have boycotted elections in the unilaterally unified municipality but this year some Palestinians are considering participating.
Mohammed Zahika, a resident of Jerusalem’s Sawahreh neighborhood, told Arab News that many in his community are considering voting in the municipal elections scheduled for October 2018.
“There are winds of change in this area but everyone is waiting for some kind of political clarity and direction before deciding to participate in the elections.”

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