The Obama administration has told the Palestinian Authority the “golden era” of Israeli construction in sections of Jerusalem and the strategic West Bank will soon come to an end, a top PA negotiator told this column.
“The U.S. assured us that for the first time since 1967 we are going into a period where there will not be allowed a single construction effort on the part of the Israelis in the settlements, including in Gush Etzion, Maale Adumim and eastern Jerusalem,” said the negotiator, speaking from Ramallah on condition of anonymity.
The negotiator said the positions of the PA and U.S. regarding ongoing Jewish construction in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem “are closer than ever.”
“The U.S. used to differentiate between natural growth and adding new communities. Not anymore. No construction will be allowed, not even natural growth,” the PA negotiator said.
The negotiator spoke just before Defense Minister Ehud Barak took off for Washington, D.C., for meetings with the Obama administration.
The negotiator claimed that while Barak might reach an understanding with the U.S. regarding the West Bank, such an understanding would be for Israeli political purposes and wouldn’t translate into actual Jewish construction on the ground.
The Obama administration recently demanded Israel halt all settlement activity, including natural growth, in apparent abrogation of a deal made by President Bush.
Syrian Group Threatens To Capture Golan Heights
A Syrian militant group threatened over the weekend to seize the strategic Golan Heights by force if a peace agreement involving the strategic plateau is not reached with Israel.
Israel’s Army Radio reported that a group calling itself the Syrian Committee for the Liberation of the Golan said it would move to capture the Golan, adding that Israel has not shown a willingness to achieve peace or to return what they called “Syrian land.”
This column first broke the story in September 2006
of the formation of the Committee for the Liberation of the Golan, quoting Syrian officials stating that the group was formed to launch “resistance” against Israeli troop positions and Jewish communities in the Golan Heights.
The latest threats from the Committee were made over the weekend at the inauguration ceremony – which Syrian President Bashar Assad attended – for a new communications center in the town of Quneitra, which runs alongside the Syrian border with Israel.
In July 2007, Syria, for the first time in 30 years, opened a strategic border road to civilian traffic in Quneitra in a move some Israeli security officials worry could help facilitate guerrilla attacks against Golani Jewish communities. The road is visible from the Israeli side of the border.
Israel has not been standing idle at recent Syrian rhetoric and military moves. A trip to the Israeli-Syrian border three weeks ago found Israeli tanks stationed alongside the Syrian border as well as a series of massive trenches dug in recent months on the Israeli side.
Shalit’s Fate May Be Related To Events In Egypt
A senior Egyptian security official denied rampant Israeli media reports that kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit will be transferred to Egypt in the coming days. However, the Egyptian official, who is involved in negotiations for Shalit’s release between Israel and Hamas, said it is possible a deal to free Shalit could be forged in the near future.
“In the coming hours or few days, no. But negotiations will resume on Sunday that could lead to Shalit’s release,” the official said, speaking from Cairo.
In related news, Hamas and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, according to some reports, are close to striking a unity deal that would see new Palestinian elections.
However, Ahmed Yousef, Hamas’s chief political adviser in the Gaza Strip, told this column no such deal has yet been struck.
“We have an invitation to come to Cairo to discuss a unity agreement, but there is no deal now,” Yousef said, speaking from Gaza.
According to top Hamas sources, if talks for reconciliation between Abbas and Hamas result in an agreement for new elections, Hamas is likely to sign a deal just before that to release Shalit.
An Egyptian security official concurred: “Hamas wants the credit for a massive prisoner release right before new elections. Palestinians will be on the streets celebrating Hamas and they may carry that sentiment over to the polls.”
Terrorist Responds To Jewish Press Report
There is no shame in being poor, Ziad Al Nakhala, the deputy secretary general of the Islamic Jihad terrorist group, declared in an official statement this week.
Nakhala, based in Syria, was directly responding to a report from this column and WorldNetDaily last week stating that the Iranian government, distracted with the country’s escalating protests, had failed to send its regular payments to Islamic Jihad, causing a major financial crisis for the terrorist organization.
This journalist’s report was quoted widely in the Palestinian and pan-Arab media this past week.
“There is not a shame to be poor,” began Nakhala’s statement in response to Arab media inquiries. “This is the face of the resistance movement. We are devoted to our principals and not monetary concerns.”
Nakhala said he was responding to a report on an “American website.” He denied, however, that Islamic Jihad’s financial crisis was tied to lack of funds from Iran.
Aaron Klein is Jerusalem bureau chief for WorldNetDaily.com. He appears throughout the week on leading U.S. radio programs and is the author of the book “The Late Great State of Israel.” Follow Klein on Twitter under the name “AaronKleinWND.”