JERUSALEM - The Israeli government and private Jewish groups are working in
concert to build a human cordon around Jerusalem's Old City and its
disputed holy sites, moving Jewish residents into Arab neighborhoods to
consolidate their grip on strategic locations, according to critics of the
effort and a Washington Post investigation.
The goal is to establish Jewish enclaves in and around Arab-dominated East
Jerusalem and eventually link them to form a ring around the city, a key
battleground in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict because of
its Jewish and Muslim holy sites, according to activists involved in the
effort and critics of the campaign.
The Israeli government has sometimes violated its own laws and regulations
to advance the encircling effort, the Post investigation found. Critics of
the plan charge that the government is subsidizing and protecting Jewish
groups that are deliberately scuttling peace efforts by establishing Jewish
enclaves in overwhelmingly Palestinian neighborhoods.
As part of the effort, the Israeli government began work on expanding the
West Bank's largest settlement, Maleh Adumim, without required building
permits and in violation of the settlement's master development plan. The
work was ordered stopped in September after Post inquires about the project.
In addition, Israeli security forces seized a Palestinian-owned hotel on
the border of eastern Jerusalem after expelling its owners and declaring
them absentee. Nearby, a private Jewish organization has bought and
occupied two illegal houses that the Israeli government is paying private
security guards to protect