The Palestinian Authority held the latest in a series of official meetings in Jerusalem to discuss dealing with expected Palestinian sovereignty over key sections of the city.
Dmitri Ziliani, a spokesman for the Jerusalem section of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, told WorldNetDaily that this week’s meeting was related to the activities and structure of Fatah’s local command in eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem.
“We were covering the best ways to improve our performance on the street and how we can be of service to the community,” Ziliani said.
Ziliani said the regular PA meetings in Jerusalem are, in part, held in anticipation of a future Palestinian state encompassing all of eastern Jerusalem.
“Our political program as Fatah dictates [is that] there will be no Palestinian state if these areas – all of east Jerusalem – are not included,” Ziliani said.
This week’s meeting was the latest in a series of official PA gatherings in Israel’s capital since last November’s U.S.-backed Annapolis summit, which aimed to create a Palestinian state before the end of this year.
According to previous accords, the PA cannot open official institutions in Jerusalem. While Israel has not officially approved the PA’s presence in Jerusalem, Palestinian diplomatic sources claimed there was an unwritten agreement in which Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office pledged not to interfere with some PA activities in the city.
Rice In Solidarity With PA On Jerusalem
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this week pledged to study a Palestinian proposal for the U.S. to guarantee that eastern sections of Jerusalem will become part of a future Palestinian state.
“[Rice] was in total solidarity with us on the issue of stopping Israeli building in [eastern] Jerusalem,” said a senior Palestinian Authority official who met with Rice.
The official said Rice promised to seriously look into the offering of a formal U.S. letter guaranteeing that new Israeli construction in eastern Jerusalem would be disregarded and that the areas of construction would be included in the final borders of a Palestinian state.
As Rice met with Israeli and Palestinian officials, Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski announced the approval of 40,000 new residential units to be built in various Jewish neighborhoods, including about 1,300 new units in eastern Jerusalem. Rice later harshly criticized the proposed new construction.
Israel recaptured eastern Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, during the 1967 Six Day War. The Palestinians have claimed eastern Jerusalem as the future capital of a Palestinian state. While the area has large Arab neighborhoods, it also has a significant Jewish population as well as sites holy to Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
About 231,000 Arabs live in Jerusalem, mostly in eastern neighborhoods. Many reside in illegally constructed complexes on property owned by the Jewish National Fund, a Jewish nonprofit agency that purchases land for the stated goal of Jewish settlement. Jerusalem has an estimated total population of 724,000.
Hamas Says Israel In Retreat
Hamas has been operating under the working assumption that Prime Minister Olmert will reject a proposed large-scale military ground operation that was debated in the Knesset last week, said top Hamas sources.
The Hamas sources said they expect Israel to agree to a truce with the Gaza-based militants. They said they consider Israel to be engaged in a policy of retreat with regard to the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the West Bank.
“We are sure the Zionists will not dare any operation in Gaza,” said one top Hamas official. “To show this, in recent weeks, the Israeli military forces have been lowering their level of troops operating near Gaza.
“If there was going to be any major operation, Israel would be sending in reinforcements, not evacuating its forces.
“Of course we prepare for anything, but what we see is that Israel is in retreat. They are pulling their troops back,” said the Hamas official.
The official was referring to an Israeli decision two weeks ago to evacuate troops stationed at the Erez crossing, a major Gaza-Israel border crossing, following repeated Palestinian attacks against Israel’s side of the border station.