by Maayana Miskin
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad proclaimed historic Jerusalem an Arab capital city in a speech given Saturday near Ramallah. Control of the city must be granted to a future PA state, he said.
"The future of the national project and the future of a comprehensive peace in the region are both dependent on protecting Jerusalem, its status, its history, and Palestinian rights in the city,” he declared.
"East Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian statehood and the state's sovereignty over its capital must be complete,” he added.
Similar statements were made by senior PA negotiator Saeb Erekat, who expressed fury Sunday over the implementation of a court order evicting two Arab families from Jewish-owned homes in Jerusalem where they had been squatting illegally for several years.
"East Jerusalem is, and always will be, Palestinian,” an angry Erekat said. Like Fayyad, he threatened that Israel's presence in the entire city of Jerusalem “threaten[s] the viability of a two-state solution.”
Erekat called on the international community to reject Jewish growth in historic Jerusalem, which he termed “a dangerous plan” to thwart Arab demands. “The international community must act decisively, in line with international law, against these Israeli measures... Nobody can say that they didn't see these outrageous actions coming,” he said.
PA leaders have repeatedly insisted that they be granted sovereignty over all areas of Jerusalem that were conquered by Jordan in 1948 and occupied until 1967, when Israel regained control over the eastern part of the city during the Six Day War.
Areas demanded by the PA included the Old City and the Temple Mount, historic Jewish neighborhoods such as Mei Shiloach (Silwan) and Shimon HaTzaddik (Sheikh Jarrah), as well as more recently-built neighborhoods such as Pisgat Ze'ev and Neve Yaakov that are home to a total of roughly 300,000 Israeli Jews.
The PA's demands have recently met with understanding in the United States, whose officials have begun pressuring Israel to halt building projects in some parts of the capital city. While Israeli leaders have publicly refused to do so, and have said that Jerusalem will remain Israel's undivided capital, recent reports suggest that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu may have given in to American demands and ordered a partial building freeze.
European Union countries have been sympathetic to PA demands as well, and several have provided funding for Israeli-based organizations such as Peace Now, B'Tselem and Ir Amim, which oppose the Jewish presence in historic Jerusalem.
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