Akiva Eldar
July 25, 2008 - 2:37pm

The United States this week filed an official protest with Israel for harming Palestinians, including the eviction of the al-Kurd family from their home in the Shimon Hatzadik complex in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

The U.S. also demanded explanations for the harassment of Palestinian residents in the West Bank by Israeli settlers.

A diplomatic source told Haaretz that the Foreign Ministry responded that the decision to evict the al-Kurd family was made under civilian jurisdiction, so the state has no standing to intervene in a matter still being heard by the Supreme Court.

Regarding harassment of Palestinians, Israel replied that the state regards this seriously and that law-enforcement officials take all necessary steps to prevent it and bring the perpetrators to trial.

The source said Washington expressed surprise at criticism from Jerusalem that the U.S. administration is dealing with "localized incidents" such as the case of the al-Kurd family and students would could not leave the Gaza Strip for studies abroad.

The diplomat said that handling such incidents is routine both for the embassy in Tel Aviv and the consulate in Jerusalem. He noted that the U.S. administration acts according to policy accepted by Israel that the Palestinian Authority should be assisted and its head Mahmoud Abbas and prime minister Salaam Fayyad strengthened. All the events in which the U.S. has intervened have clashed with that policy.

The administration recently received detailed reports of increased activity by a settler organization in East Jerusalem working to increase the Jewish presence in Arab neighborhoods such as Sheikh Jarrah, Jabal Mukkaber, Silwan and the Mount of Olives. The U.S. consulate in Jerusalem has been tracking new construction plans in those neighborhoods for the Jewish population and reporting on them to Washington.

The protest by the U.S. raises doubts on the authenticity of an Ottoman-era bill of sale on which the Jerusalem District Court relied in ruling that the Shimon Hatzadik property belongs to the Committee for the Sephardic Group. The committee transferred the property to a settler organization called "Shimon's Estate" that sought to evict the family that has lived there since the early 1950s. The al-Kurd family are refugees from West Jerusalem.

MK Yossi Beilin (Meretz) this week submitted a parliamentary question to the prime minister on the al-Kurd eviction notice, which had been slated to be carried out on July 15. The eviction was delayed after the family's lawyer requested an urgent hearing by the Supreme Court.

The question was passed around among cabinet ministers until it was returned to the prime minister, who asked Tourism Minister Ruhama Avraham Balila to respond in her role as cabinet liaison to the Knesset. "In the eyes of the prime minister," Avraham Balila addressed Beilin, "and in my eyes, not to mention in your eyes as a former justice minister, a High Court of Justice ruling always decides such matters."


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