RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - The Palestinian prime minister cancelled an official visit on Tuesday to an area Israel regards as part of Jerusalem after Israel security forces were ordered to prevent such a trip.
Prime Minister Salam Fayyad had been scheduled to open a road in Dahiyat al-Salam, which falls within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem as defined by Israel following its annexation of the territory after the 1967 Middle East war.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his security forces on Monday to stop the Palestinian Authority (PA) from holding any events in the Jerusalem municipality, apparently in response to Fayyad’s plans.
Fayyad, head of the Ramallah-based PA government, visited another area just outside the Jerusalem city limits on Tuesday, touring a school where the PA had financed renovation work.
Asked by journalists why he had cancelled his trip to Dahiyat al-Salam, the former World Bank economist said: “What do you expect? This is an occupation.”
Israel prevents the Palestinian Authority from holding events in Jerusalem, which it regards as its “indivisible capital.” Its annexation of land in and around Jerusalem after the 1967 war has never won international recognition.
The Palestinians aim to make the eastern part of Jerusalem, which includes the walled old city, the capital of a state they want to establish in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Fayyad is leading efforts to get the Palestinians ready for statehood by building institutions with financial and political backing from Western governments.
His administration exercises limited self-rule over patches of territory in the occupied West Bank. The peace process which the Palestinians hope will deliver them statehood is now stalled due to a dispute over Jewish settlement on the land where the Palestinians want their state.
As part of his state-building efforts, Fayyad has directed funds towards Palestinian areas of the Jerusalem municipality where Palestinians complain that the Israeli authorities have denied them services provided to other parts of the city.
The Jerusalem municipality denies claims of discrimination against the city’s Palestinian residents, who pay it taxes and carry Israeli-issued permits to reside in the city.
In Dahiyat al-Salam, Fayyad had planned to open a new road paved with Palestinian Authority funds at a cost of $96,000. While part of Israel’s Jerusalem municipality, Dahiyat al-Salam falls outside the barrier Israel has built which separates the city from the West Bank.
Israel began building the West Bank barrier during the Palestinian uprising, or Intifada, earlier this decade on the grounds of security.
Palestinian residents of Jerusalem who found themselves cut off from the city by the barrier fear Israel will eventually strip them of their residency permits.
PA spokesman Ghassan Khatib said Fayyad aimed to highlight Israeli neglect. “Education and social services are very bad,” Khatib said. “The Palestinian government started to implement some projects there, especially in schools,” he added.
Fayyad said: “We are here to execute a serious enterprise; the birth of the state of Palestine.”
He added: “These are the suburbs of the city of Jerusalem that Israel occupied in 1967 and which will be nothing other than the eternal capital of the State of Palestine.”
Additional reporting by Ori Lewis in Jerusalem; writing by Tom Perry; editing by Mark Heinrich