Washington issued another diplomatic protest over Israeli conduct in East Jerusalem on Monday, its second in as many weeks.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman summoned Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, to tell him that the United States views Sunday’s eviction of two Palestinian families from homes in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood as a “provocative” and “unacceptable” act that violates Israel’s obligations under the road map peace plan.
Oren responded by saying that the buildings in question have been Jewish-owned since before Israel’s founding, and that a court ordered the families’ evictions because they had violated the terms of their leases.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also denounced the evictions publicly on Monday, terming them “deeply regrettable” during a joint press conference in Washington with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. She said the evictions violated Israel’s commitments under the road map and would impede progress toward peace, adding that the United States would not recognize any unilateral changes to the status quo in Jerusalem.
Two weeks ago, Oren received a similar American protest over a plan to build 20 apartments for Jews in the Shepherd Hotel compound in Sheikh Jarrah. That protest prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to retort that Israel would never accept Jews being denied the right to live anywhere in Jerusalem.
Shortly before Oren was summoned by Feltman on Monday, Israeli Ambassador to Sweden Benny Dagan was summoned to that country’s foreign ministry for a similar rebuke. Swedish officials told Dagan that they did not understand the timing of the evictions, nor do they accept the legal arguments behind the move. Sweden currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency.
Dagan counterattacked, saying that Israel was “extremely frustrated with Sweden’s conduct” as president of the EU. Israel, he said, has taken steps to make life easier for West Bank Palestinians, while the Palestinians have merely entrenched themselves in their hard-line positions, and the EU has done nothing to help.
The Swedes rejected these claims, noting there is “no difference” between Sweden’s positions on the peace process and Washington’s.
Foreign Ministry Director General Rafi Barak responded by summoning the Swedish ambassador for talks, during which he told her that Jerusalem considers Stockholm’s criticisms of Israel, since assuming the EU presidency, to be excessive.