Crisis Group report slams Israeli’s $530m plan for occupied East Jerusalem

There are many Palestinian land owners from East Jerusalem who are living abroad, and this plan is aimed at transferring their properties to the Israeli government, says expert. (AFP)
Updated 12 June 2019

Crisis Group report slams Israeli’s $530m plan for occupied East Jerusalem

  • ICG calls on allies of both leaderships to press Israeli govt not to carry out these plans
  • The report concludes that these actions ‘would exacerbate the conflict in and over Jerusalem’

AMMAN: The International Crisis Group (ICG) has called on Israel not to implement controversial parts of a $530 million, five-year plan to develop occupied East Jerusalem without any input from the Palestinian community.

In a 40-page report published on Tuesday, the ICG called on Israel not to separate Palestinian communities in parts of East Jerusalem from the city’s municipality, force schools there to adopt Israel’s curricula, and introduce a land registry.

The report, titled “Reversing Israel’s Deepening Annexation of Occupied East Jerusalem,” concludes that these actions “would exacerbate the conflict in and over Jerusalem.”

Ofer Zalzberg, a senior analyst with the ICG and the report’s main author, told Arab News that despite settlement construction in East Jerusalem and severe impediments placed on natural growth in Palestinian neighborhoods, Israel has failed to establish a durable and substantial Jewish majority in that part of the city. 

Zalzberg said a former Israeli minister described the dilemma to him as follows: “East Jerusalem remains stuck in our throat: We can’t swallow it and we can’t spit it out.”

Khaled Abu Arafeh, a former Palestinian minister, said Israel is moving fast to Judaize East Jerusalem. 

“It’s very worrisome what’s happening. This large amount of money is being set aside to tackle Palestinian aspirations, especially in the educational field,” he told Arab News. 

Abu Arafeh said the report shows how Israeli authorities operate in East Jerusalem with impunity. 

“This is very dangerous, and requires more than ever (Palestinian) national unity and a position from the Arab and Islamic world,” he added. 

Khalil Assali, a member of the Waqf, which manages Al-Aqsa Mosque, said Israel has been targeting education in East Jerusalem for some time. 

“The Israelis have placed obstacles, closed schools and forced (Palestinian) students to attend Israeli municipal schools,” he told Arab News.

“We have at least 30,000 students whose names aren’t in any registry because they have no school seats.”

Khalil Tufakji, head of the map department at the Arab Studies Center, expressed opposition to the idea of a land registry for East Jerusalem. 

“There are many Palestinian land owners from East Jerusalem who are living abroad, and this idea is aimed at transferring their properties to the Israeli government by means of putting them in the hands of the custodian of absentee properties,” he told Arab News.

The ICG called on Palestinians, Israelis, and allies of both leaderships to press Israel’s government not to carry out these plans. 

“If it wants to reduce poverty and crime in East Jerusalem, Israel should allow Palestinians to establish civic leadership bodies in the city and end its ban on Palestinian Authority activities there,” the ICG wrote.

It urged outside powers “to allocate funds to help Palestinian Jerusalemites establish civic leadership bodies in East Jerusalem to operate both east and west of the separation barrier, in coordination with Israel.”


Jordan criticizes Israel over Al-Aqsa Mosque changes

Updated 17 min 45 sec ago

Jordan criticizes Israel over Al-Aqsa Mosque changes

  • Palestinians welcomed the Jordanian position but expressed concerns over a decline of support for Amman’s custodianship of the holy places at Al-Aqsa

AMMAN: Jordan has stepped up its diplomatic pressure on Israel, demanding that they do not change the status quo at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Zaid Lozi, director-general of Jordan’s Foreign Ministry, summoned Israeli Ambassador to Jordan Amir Weissbrod to protest Israel’s actions in Jerusalem.

According to Petra News, Lozi told the envoy that recent remarks by Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Ardan over changing the status quo at Al-Aqsa Mosque are unacceptable. Lozi added that the mosque is a place of worship for Muslims only.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi addressed a group of EU ambassadors in Amman and “stressed the urgency of effective international steps against Israel’s violations of Holy Sites in occupied Jerusalem.”

Safadi told Arab News that the situation in Jerusalem is challenging and must be addressed. He said that he will present a detailed report on Jordan’s position to Parliament on Monday.

The ministry denounced the Israeli authorities’ closure of the mosque’s gates and demanded that Israel respects its obligations in accordance with international humanitarian law.

HIGHLIGHT

• Muslims insist that all 144,000 square meters of the UNESCO World Heritage Site are a single unit that has belonged to them for 11 centuries.

Hatem Abdel Qader, a member of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, told Arab News that Israeli authorities had been attempting to enforce major changes at the mosque.

“Security forces barged into the mosque yesterday. They went to the Bab Al-Rahmeh Mosque where they confiscated carpets and the closet where shoes are kept.”

Jordan’s diplomatic statements follow comments by Ardan, who said that Israel is disappointed with the current state of affairs at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

According to Israeli officials, the mosque area is sovereign Israeli territory, despite it being administered by Jordan. Muslims insist that all 144,000 square meters of the UNESCO World Heritage Site are a single unit that has belonged to them for 11 centuries.

Qader said that Palestinians welcomed the Jordanian position but expressed concerns over a decline of support for Amman’s custodianship of the holy places at Al-Aqsa.

“There appears to have been a gradual deterioration of Arab and Islamic support to Jordan. It surprises me that Muslims have been quiet, perhaps they see an advantage if Jordan’s role is diminished? If true, this would be dangerous.”

Qader, a former minister in the Palestinian government and a current member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, told Arab News that Jordan’s position “guarantees continuation of the status quo.”