The U.S. State Department has summoned Israel Ambassador Michael Oren over “unacceptable” and “provocative” evictions of Arabs from Jewish-owned homes in the Sheikh Jarreh neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem. In a possible effort to try to lower the heat on Israel, Assistant Secretary of State Jeffery Feltman, instead of Secretary Hillary Clinton, summoned Oren.
The U.S., like most of the Western world, does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem neighborhoods, including the Old City and the Western Wall (Kotel), that were restored to the Jewish State in the Six-Day War in 1967.
Secretary Clinton earlier this week charged that the evictions of Arabs are “deeply regrettable” and violate Israeli obligations of the American Roadmap plan, although she did not cite any specific reference in the Roadmap to removing illegal residents. Israel has previously expelled thousands of Jews from homes which they owned in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, but these areas also are not recognized by the U.S. as part of Israel.
The State Department did not reply to Oren’s statement that the homes where Arabs were evicted are owned by Jews, who bought them during the British Mandate before the War for Independence in 1948. Arabs claim they bought the properties in 1958 during the Jordanian occupation.
The Obama administration, which has taken aim at all construction for Jews in parts of the capital restored to the city in 1967 as well as in Judea and Samaria, focused on eastern Jerusalem last month when it was revealed that a Jewish owner of the abandoned Shepherd Hotel, also located in Sheikh Jarreh, plans to build 20 apartments on the property.
Oren was not the only envoy to be summoned over the evictions. Sweden, which currently serves as the rotating president of the European Union, rebuked Israeli Ambassador Benny Dagan. In return, the Foreign Ministry summoned the Swedish ambassador to Israel.
Oren recently pointed out that even if Israel were to agree to the American demand to freeze construction for Jews, he is not sure that the Arab world would reach out for talks with Jerusalem.
“So Israel can freeze settlements tomorrow -- we plucked up 21 settlements out of Gaza two years ago, and you know I was there, it was the most traumatic event of my military career, pulling Jews out of their houses -- we did that, and we turned around and got 7,200 rockets fired at us,” Oren told the Atlantic magazine last week.
“Settlements are not the issue,” he added. “The issue is the recognition of the mutual legitimacy of these two peoples, the legitimate claim to these two states. “