Saturday, March 28, 2009

Not Spying, Intelligence-Gathering

Reuters reports:

U.S. diplomats assessed Jewish settlement activity at an Israeli-occupied district near Jerusalem on Friday, in a public signal of greater activism by the Obama administration in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, Micaela Schweitzer-Bluhm, confirmed the visit took place "as part of our ongoing observation activities in the area," which Israel sees as a critical link between Jerusalem and the sprawling settlement of Maale Adumim.

Palestinians say building in what Israel calls E1, an area of occupied land between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, would deny them a viable state by cutting the West Bank in two and isolating Arab East Jerusalem, which they want as their capital.

An assessment of Israeli activities, prepared by the diplomats, will be sent to Washington.

The visit comes just days before Benjamin Netanyahu takes over as Israeli prime minister...

...Hagit Ofran of the Israeli Peace Now organization, which tracks settlement growth, said the Obama administration was concerned about future building plans under Netanyahu.

She said Friday's visit was "a signal to say to the new Israeli government that the Americans are interested in what's going on the ground and that they don't want to see the Israelis constructing in E1."

U.S. diplomats frequently visit East Jerusalem and the West Bank to monitor Israeli settlement building, but such visits are rarely public.

"We keep track of all developments in the West Bank and Jerusalem on an ongoing basis and report regularly to Washington," Schweitzer-Bluhm said.

Well, perhaps human rights groups from abroad should visit immigration detention centers, the fence near Mexico, Indian reservations?

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