(February 7, 2023 / JNS) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected a call by the Biden administration to temporarily freeze construction in Judea and Samaria and halt demolitions of illegal Arab structures in those territories as well as the eastern part of Jerusalem.
However, while Israeli officials stressed that these activities would not be stopped completely, ad hoc concessions would be made.
According to Axios, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the request during his visit to Israel last week, in a bid to de-escalate tensions amid rampant Palestinian terrorism.
Washington reportedly asked that Jerusalem “pause” the actions for several months, and also requested that the Palestinian Authority fully resume security coordination with Israel and postpone any additional steps against it at U.N. institutions and other international bodies.
P.A. chief Mahmoud Abbas announced on Jan. 26 that Ramallah would cease security cooperation following an IDF raid in Jenin in which nine people were killed during fierce clashes.
The decision by Israeli security forces to conduct a large-scale counter-terrorism operation in Jenin during daylight hours was unusual, reflecting the urgent need to prevent a major terror plot from moving ahead.
That plot, according to security sources, involved a Palestinian Islamic Jihad attack against Israelis to be carried out in the immediate future.
In a meeting days later with CIA Director William Burns in Ramallah, Abbas reportedly relayed a four-part message: 1) Intelligence cooperation with Israel continues; 2) The P.A. will continue to work to prevent acts of terror; 3) Security cooperation with Israel will be renewed to calm tensions; and 4) He cannot condemn the recent attacks in Jerusalem as doing so would be “political suicide.”
On Monday, Netanyahu reportedly intervened to delay the demolition of an illegally constructed building in eastern Jerusalem due to American pressure. The large building houses 100 persons and is located in the Wadi Qaddum section of Silwan/Shiloah, an Arab neighborhood in the Israeli capital’s southeast.
The illegal structure has been slated for demolition for years, but the demolition has been put off amid an international outcry.
Axios also reported that during his meeting last week with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, Netanyahu said he would not suspend all building across the Green Line, but that the amount of construction would be “much less” than what is being demanded by various coalition partners.
Earlier this month, the Israeli government asked the Supreme Court for a four-month extension for submitting its response to a ruling demanding the implementation of demolition orders against the illegal Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar.
It was the ninth time the state has requested a postponement.
The legal battle over the issue began in 2009, when Israeli NGO Regavim filed its first petition against what it called “the Palestinian Authority’s flagship outpost in the systematic takeover of Area C” of Judea and Samaria. The encampment is built on state land belonging to the city of Ma’ale Adumim, east of Jerusalem.
While the Supreme Court has rejected the residents’ appeal and upheld lower courts’ rulings ordering Khan al-Ahmar be evacuated, previous governments, including those led by Netanyahu, have asked for and received deferments.
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