Jerusalem Land Seizure Jostles Israel-PLO Pact

By John Battersby, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, May 15, 1995 | Go to article overview

Jerusalem Land Seizure Jostles Israel-PLO Pact


John Battersby, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


THE faltering Israel-PLO peace process is under threat as criticism has mounted over Israel's decision two weeks ago to seize 133 acres of mainly Arab-owned land in East Jerusalem for Jewish housing and a police station.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin tried to defuse the controversy just before today's debate in the United Nations Security Council on the land issue. But Palestinian and Arab leaders, as well as Israeli human rights advocates, continued to demand a reversal of the seizures.

They say the seizures cut across the spirit of the 1993 Israel-PLO accord and are an attempt by Israel to influence the outcome of future talks on the status of Israel and creating a Palestinian state.

Government bending

The Israeli government's action was seen as a bow to conservative demands to boost the Jewish population in Jerusalem at the expense of the Arabs before any deal is reached regarding the city's future status and the extension of Palestinian autonomy to the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The latest expropriations of mainly Arab-owned land were part of a "policy of systematic and deliberate discrimination" against Jerusalem's Palestinian population, said Eitan Felner of B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.

Following an Israeli Cabinet meeting yesterday, a government minister said that Mr. Rabin had stood by his decision to seize the land, but had promised there would be no further expropriation of Arab land in East Jerusalem without prior consent of Palestinian leaders.

"It was said openly {in the Cabinet} that it is going to be the last one," said Communications Minister Shulamit Aloni of the left-wing Meretz Party, whose leader, Environment Minister Yossi Sarid has been calling for seizures to be frozen.

Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin, a leading Labor Party dove, has also called for a rethink on the latest expropriations.

The United States, which has expressed reservations about the seizures but resisted a UN debate, stands alone in defending the Israeli action and has committed itself to vetoing any Security Council resolution condemning Israel.

Leaders of Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Liberation Organization and leaders in the Arab world have warned that the seizures could wreck the faltering peace accord between Israel and the PLO unless they are reversed and further expropriations halted. …

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