U.S. State Department Spokesman Philip Crowley On Wednesday criticized Israel’s recent demolition of Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem, saying that it was precisely “the kind of unilateral action that undermines trust.”
“It is the very kind of action that poses a potential obstacle to direct negotiations,” Crowley added, referring to U.S. aims to bring Israel and the Palestinians to the negotiation table to iron out a peace deal. He added that the future direct negotiations would be “the only route to addressing the final-status issues, whether it’s the status of Jerusalem, borders of a viable Palestinian state, security for the people of Israel, and resolution of refugees in these territories and throughout the region.”
“Any steps that the Israelis, Palestinians or other parties take that change the facts on the ground, we think are unhelpful,” Crowley went on to say.
When asked whether the U.S. administration is worried about Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s state of health, which has been rumored to be badly deteriorating, he declined to comment. “That would be something for the Egyptian government to comment on“, he said. “We continue to value the contribution that President Mubarak has made to peace and security in the region. We always wish him good health. But as to his current status, I’ll defer to the Egyptian government.”
A scheduled meeting between the Egyptian president and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which has been postponed multiple times, was once again delayed on Wednesday sparking concern over Mubarak’s health. However, Egypt issued a statement on Wednesday citing Israel’s demolitions of Palestinian structures in East Jerusalem as the reason for the delay.
The demolition of three houses on Tuesday was the first such Israeli action in the span of nine months. Recently, the director of the Jerusalem Municipality Yair Ma’ayan admitted that the city was refraining from demolishing the illegally built structures in the Eastern part of the city because the Prime Minister’s Office was not sanctioning such action, creating a de-facto freeze. This despite the fact that active demolition orders exist against thousands of Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem.