Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary-General Saeb Erekat denounced on Sunday a meeting of the Israeli security cabinet held earlier in the day in tunnels located underneath the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem as a “provocation” and proof that Israel “insists on sabotaging international efforts” for peace.
While the weekly meeting of the security cabinet is typically held in the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli authorities chose to hold it under the Old City on Sunday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Israeli annexation of occupied East Jerusalem.
The ultra-right religious Zionist community storms the Old City each year on the same day Palestinians remember the “Naksa,”meaning “setback,” referring to the mass displacement that accompanied the Israeli takeover of the Palestinian territory.
As a result of the 1967 war, Israel took control from Jordan and Egypt over the majority Palestinian-populated West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip, which remain illegally occupied and blockaded, respectively, to this day.
During the meeting, Netanyahu notably announced plans to establish a new cable car project linking the First Station Complex in West Jerusalem to the Old City’s Moroccans’ Gate located near the Western Wall and the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Such a project, which Netanyahu said would benefit the tourism industry in Jerusalem, would in effect limit tourists’ exposure to Palestinian parts of East Jerusalem, and further use the industry as what critics have called a “tool” to enforce the perception of Jerusalem as a Jewish city.
A representative of the Islamic organization Taawon in Palestine, Ahmad al-Reweidi, told Voice of Palestine radio station that the cable car project was an attempt to “Judaize” Jerusalem and erase the city’s Islamic heritage, adding that he would carry out all legal and political efforts to stop the project.
The security cabinet meeting also comes days after Netanyahu vowed that the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound — known to Israelis as the Temple Mount — and the Western Wall would “remain forever under Israeli sovereignty.”
“Today’s meeting in Occupied East Jerusalem is an attempt by the Israeli government to normalize occupation, oppression and colonization over the land and people of Palestine,” Erekat said in a statement.
“The Israeli government has decided to mark 50 years of occupation (of East Jerusalem and the West Bank), and the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, by sending a clear message to the Palestinian people that the systematic violations of their inalienable rights are going to continue,” Erekat added.
The Palestinian official went on to slam the international community’s inaction as being a major factor leading Israel to continue violating international law.
“Israel’s unprecedented culture of impunity has been encouraged by a number of countries that continue to assure Israel that no concrete action will be taken to end Israel’s decades of systematic violations of its obligations under international law and UN resolutions,” he said. “It is no longer acceptable that after 50 years of the Israeli occupation for countries to claim to support the two-state solution while giving assurances to Israel that there will be no consequences for its illegal actions.”
“Marking 50 years of occupation is a shame for all the international system,” Erekat emphasized.