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http://www3.haaretz.co.il/eng/scripts/article.asp?id=60850&mador=4&datee=11/9/99

Tuesday, November 9, 1999

Barak gets green light in Ras al-Amud

By Danny Rubinstein

In addition to the problems they have faced in areas of the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians have been unable to stop settlement activity in East Jerusalem and outlying areas. Settlement activity has been undertaken in a swath encompassing Har Homa in the south and Kochav Hair in the north, but the most conspicuous effort has ensued at Ras al-Amud, overlooking the Old City. Two years ago, a Palestinian spokesman charged that settler efforts at Ras al-Amud, backed by American benefactor Irving Moskowitz, represented "acts of malice and terror that will cause bloodshed." Palestinian protests, led by Jerusalem-based PA official Faisal al-Husseini, were conducted at the site. Peace Now held a protest vigil in the area. The Netanyahu-led government met stiff American resistance, and was compelled not to authorize the construction of a Jewish neighborhood at Ras al-Amud.Now it turns out that what was forbidden to Netanyahu is permitted to Barak. Full-scale construction work has been undertaken by settlers at Ras al-Amud for some time, and there has been nothing to impede their efforts.

The PA leadership and Husseini's associates at the Orient House freely admit that had the Ras al-Amud construction work ensued under the direction of the Netanyahu government, they would have protested vehemently, stirring up passions among the people. Yet under the current Barak government they can do little to oppose this settlement activity, since progress is being made in the peace process. It is a safe bet that not a murmur of protest will be sounded in weeks to come, when full-fledged discussions ensue to attain a framework for a final status accord.

Yet the fact that the Palestinians are keeping mum about construction at Ras al-Amud can hardly be ranked as an Israeli accomplishment. The opposite is true. A small Jewish neighborhood now awaits completion in the heart of a densely populated Arab region in East Jerusalem. Its arrival constitutes a surefire recipe for contention, strife and woe; sooner or later, tempers are bound to explode at Ras al-Amud.

The "separation" principle that Barak is fostering apparently does not apply to Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, an area to which all Israeli governments have extended Israeli sovereignty. Nonetheless, East Jerusalem cannot possibly be treated as an Israeli Arab city, comparable to Shfaram or Umm el-Fahm, nor can it be counted as a mixed Jewish-Arab location, along the lines of Acre or Ramle.

The reason for East Jerusalem's distinctiveness is no secret: Arab Jerusalemites are not Israeli citizens. They vote in elections for the Palestinian parliament, and they are eligible for election to it; young people study under the aegis of the Palestinian Education Ministry.

Husseini is designated as a PLO official since, under the Oslo accords, the PA is forbidden from pursuing activities in Jerusalem. Under his PLO guise, he continues to host statesmen and notables from around the world. Instead of welcoming them at the Orient House, Husseini receives his VIP guests at Palestinian institutions housed in adjacent buildings.

Responding to these meetings, Public Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami registered a protest last week with Husseini. Yet persons close to Husseini say there is no chance that he will desist from meeting with such guests.

Husseini claims that his guests initiate these meetings, but the question of who prompts them is immaterial. They are significant because they underscore the status of Arab Jerusalemites, further emphasizing that they are not Israelis.

With respect to the West Bank, Barak's government proposes to apply the separation principle by consolidating several settlement blocs. It remains to be seen whether this policy is zfeasible. At any event, the same principle should be applicable to the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, areas where settler activity comes as deliberately provocative action. Former Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek took action to thwart this settlement activity. Netanyahu stopped building at Ras al-Amud. There is no plausible reason why the Barak government should give it the green light

(c) copyright 1999 Ha'aretz. All Rights Reserved


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