Rabin Backs Seizure of Palestinian Land in E. Jerusalem
Brushing aside the protests of left-wing Cabinet ministers, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said Sunday that he supports the seizure of 125 acres of East Jerusalem land owned mostly by Palestinians to make way for Jewish neighborhoods.
Rabin’s stance increased the chances of a confrontation between his government and the Palestinian Authority, run by PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. Cabinet members of the leftist Meretz bloc succeeded only in securing a promise from Rabin that, within two weeks, he will also consider plans to expand Arab housing in Jerusalem, which each side considers its political and religious capital.
The fundamentalist Islamic Resistance Movement, known as Hamas, called Sunday for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to stage a general strike today to protest the expropriation.
In a leaflet, Hamas also urged Palestinians to step up attacks on Israelis, and it ridiculed the Palestinian Authority for being too weak to prevent land expropriation.
In another move Sunday, the Jerusalem municipality’s planning committee decided to speed up the development of another Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem, which was once mostly Arab. The committee approved plans to build 7,000 apartments in the Har Homa area, between the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo and the settlement of Maaleh Adumim. The municipality says that the Har Homa land belongs mostly to Jews.
Arafat has expressed outrage over the latest expropriation, the first in East Jerusalem since 1981. He has issued appeals to international organizations and states to intervene, and he has warned that Israel could jeopardize its ongoing negotiations with the Palestinians if it goes through with the plan.
Arafat has complained to the United States and Russia, who are co-sponsors of Arab-Israeli peace talks. He also has appealed to the U.N. Security Council and requested a special session of the Arab League.
Arab League foreign ministers are due to meet Saturday in Cairo to discuss both the expropriation and the ongoing tug of war between Israel and the Palestinians over Jerusalem.
Arafat charges that the expropriation of land from Palestinians in East Jerusalem to build Jewish neighborhoods violates the 1993 framework peace accords that Israel signed with the Palestine Liberation Organization. In those accords, Israel and the Palestinians decided to defer negotiations on the final status of Jerusalem until 1996. The Palestinians say that the accords imply that neither side will change the status quo in the meantime.
But Israel says that the future of Jerusalem is non-negotiable and that the government will do all it can to strengthen its hold on the city.
Both sides have been maneuvering to bolster their political and religious claims to the city. The Palestinians say they want to make East Jerusalem the capital of a future Palestinian state. The Israelis say they intend to ring the city with Jewish neighborhoods to ensure a continued Jewish majority in a city where Jews now outnumber Arabs 3 to 1.
Israel captured East Jerusalem during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and claims the entire city--including the ancient walled Old City containing sites holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians--as its own.
Rabin faces pressure from rightist opposition parties to aggressively assert Israel’s sovereignty over all of Jerusalem. Arafat is under increasing pressure from his own opposition--particularly Islamic fundamentalists--to break off negotiations with Israel if the Jerusalem confiscation goes through as planned.