Invasion through renovation: Abbas launches campaign to fix up homes in Israel’s capital

“This is a project that severely violates Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem and must not be carried out,” said Jerusalem Minister Rafi Peretz.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

On Sunday, the Palestinian Authority (PA) announced the launch of a new campaign to renovate homes in Jerusalem, as part of a project to “strengthen and root [Palestinian] people” in the city.

Alongside images of former PLO head Yasser Arafat and current PA President Mahmoud Abbas, promotional material revealed that the project aims to renovate some 50 Jerusalem homes in derelict conditions each year.

The PA stated that the renovation’s goal is to “ensure a decent life for Jerusalem residents and strengthen their resilience.” Throughout the material, the Arabic name for Jerusalem, al-Quds, is used.

Jerusalem Minister Rafi Peretz told Israel Hayom that he would work to block the PA project. “The State of Israel is the sovereign power in east Jerusalem. Foreign intervention in civil matters in the city of Jerusalem and severe violations of sovereignty are inconceivable.”

“This… should not be allowed to happen. Sovereignty [takes place] not in speech but in deeds. This is a project that severely violates Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem and must not be carried out. In the coming days, I will do what it takes to stop this move,” he said.

Maor Tzemach, chair of right-wing NGO Your Jerusalem, told World Israel News, “According to the Law of Implementation established in the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority is forbidden to operate in Jerusalem.

“Unfortunately, at this moment, Israel is looking the other way. Israel is the sovereign power in eastern Jerusalem and must not allow any foreign interference in the management of the city’s civil affairs. Israel must stop a project of this kind, humanitarian as it may be, and thus prevent harm to Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem.”

The announcement that the PA intends to fund and execute development projects in Jerusalem is just the latest in a series of moves that right-wing critics say weaken Israeli sovereignty in the city.

Last week, senior PA officials told Channel 20 that they intend to set up voting sites in eastern Jerusalem, so that residents may cast ballots in PA elections. The ability for eastern Jerusalem residents to vote is viewed as an “essential condition” for PA elections, officials said.

In December, a viral video showed PA policemen freely patrolling the streets of an eastern Jerusalem neighborhood.

Tzemach told WIN that the Israeli government was setting a dangerous precedent by allowing PA security forces to enforce coronavirus lockdowns in eastern Jerusalem areas.

“Giving Palestinian Authority police officers the opportunity to roam the streets of Jerusalem is a huge violation of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem,” Tzemach said.

He expressed concern that if Israel continues the policy of permitting PA security forces to patrol these neighborhoods, they may eventually end up as de jure Palestinian territories.