The Palestinians claim eastern Jerusalem as their
future capital, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made clear he does
not intend to give up the Jewish sections of the city.
Netanyahu has stated that he had not been aware of
the decision to build in Ramat Shlomo and that the announcement was not timed to
coincide with Biden's visit.
Still, Obama senior adviser David Axelrod called
the Ramat Shlomo announcement an "insult." Other administration officials called
the Jewish neighborhood expansion an impediment to Israeli-Palestinian
Yesterday, Netanyahu's office made public a U.S.
demand for a four-month freeze of Jewish construction in Jewish neighborhoods of
eastern Jerusalem. In exchange for the freeze, the U.S. said it would coax Abbas
to hold direct negotiations with Netanyahu regarding the establishment of a
The Palestinians have been engaged in riots and
street violence targeting Jews in Jerusalem.
Two weeks ago, Israel rededicated an ancient
synagogue in the main Jewish quarter of the Old City. The structure had been
badly damaged by Jordanian forces that overran the Jewish Quarter in the 1948
Middle East war.
The Hurva synagogue is hundreds of feet from the
Western Wall and is in no way connected to the Temple Mount. Israel did not
conduct heavy construction on the synagogue, a structure that had been in the
Jewish quarter since the second century.
Still, the PA and Hamas claimed Israel's
rededication ceremony was a threat to the al-Aqsa Mosque. Hamas called for a
"day of rage," prompting Palestinians throughout eastern Jerusalem to hurl
stones at police. There were also reports of rocks and Molotov cocktails aimed
at Israeli buses.
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