Police shutter PA conference in Jerusalem about land sales to Jews
Public security minister says he acts to ‘prevent any political foothold for the Palestinians’ in the capital
Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.
Israeli police on Wednesday raided a hotel in East Jerusalem to close down an event sponsored by the Palestinian Authority, which has been banned by Israeli authorities from holding political events in the city.
The conference, which was to be held at the St. George Hotel, was entitled “The Muslim and Christian religious endowments in Jerusalem.”
It was reportedly meant to discuss the issue of Arab East Jerusalemites selling land to Israeli Jews.
“I will continue to act vigorously in order to prevent any political foothold for the Palestinians in Jerusalem,” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Channel 2 news.
“The Palestinian Authority’s activity against settlement in East Jerusalem is part of a plan to undermine our sovereignty over all of Jerusalem,” Erdan said, alleging that those activities included “intimidating Arabs who sell real estate to Jews in the city.”
Israel banned the Palestinian Authority from carrying out official business in East Jerusalem in 2001, in accordance with the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that prohibits the PA from operating in Israeli territory.
Ziad Khalil Abu Zayyad, a spokesperson for the Fatah party, which controls the PA, said he had not heard of the event at the St. George Hotel, nor of its closure by the police.
The PA-appointed Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Adnan al-Husseini was not available for comment.
Images published by the Palestinian Al Quds News Network showed Israeli police vehicles outside of the hotel as well as a calm scene inside the conference center.
According to the Channel 2 report, police received wind of the conference following the sale of real estate in the city, though it did not specify what sale.
Palestinians have been irked over the recent sales of large plots of land to Israeli Jews by the Greek Orthodox Church.
Police said the event was sponsored by the PA, and was to be attended by several PA officials who once held high positions in the Orient House, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Jerusalem headquarters, which that was shut down years ago by Israel.
Among these officials were: Dr. Halil Tufkaji, former head of the Cartographic Department in the Orient House; Mazen Ja’abari, head of the Palestinian Youth Development Department in Jerusalem; and Abdul al-Qader Husseini, the son of the late Faisal Husseini, the erstwhile director of the Orient House.
In May, Israeli police briefly closed down a Palestinian cartographic center in the West Bank village of al-Ram after mistakenly concluding it was located in Jerusalem. The police claimed the center was being used by the Palestinian Authority to monitor land sales to Jews by Palestinians.
At the time, senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat condemned the closure as “illegitimate” and “provocative,” calling it part of Israel’s attempts to “erase any Palestinian” in Jerusalem.