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Date posted: December 08, 2007
By ATFP

Washington, DC, December 6 -- The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) expressed grave concern today about reports that the Israeli government has invited bids to build more than 300 new housing units in the Har Homa settlement in occupied East Jerusalem.

Both Israelis and Palestinians had committed at the Annapolis meeting to immediately begin implementing their Roadmap obligations, of which an Israeli settlement freeze including natural growth is a key part. ATFP urges the Bush Administration to use its good offices to ensure that this new settlement construction program does not go forward, and that neither side take steps to jeopardize re-launched peace efforts or undermine final status negotiations scheduled to begin on December 12.

Commenting on the issue ATFP President Ziad J. Asali said, A new and serious opportunity for progress towards peace has been created at Annapolis and we urge all parties to refrain from undermining these hopes by actions inconsistent with peace. The expansion of the Har Homa settlement in occupied East Jerusalem is precisely such an action and will only serve to undermine upcoming peace negotiations.

Dr. Asali continued, East Jerusalem is occupied territory and subject to a politically negotiated return. Israeli actions beginning with the annexation of East Jerusalem and continuing through settlement building do not establish Israeli sovereignty there. Now is the time for all parties to work together to seize the opportunity created at Annapolis and build momentum to ensure the success of final status negotiations leading to a fulfilling of President George W. Bushs vision of a Palestinian state living alongside Israel in peace.

ATFP reaffirmed that the future of Jerusalem should be negotiated based on the following principles:

1) A resolution of the issue of Jerusalem can only come about through direct negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian officials as an expression of their national policies.

2) Jerusalem is a central part of the present and futures of both Palestinian and Israeli societies, and is holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims around the world. Lasting peace can only be achieved by securing political aspirations of both peoples and religious rights of adherents to all three religions. The right of access to holy places and the right of worship in the city must be guaranteed for people of all faiths from around the world.

3) There can be no monopoly of sovereignty by either party. Jerusalem should remain shared and undivided. The occupation of Arab East Jerusalem must end and it should serve as the capital of the future state of Palestine. West Jerusalem should serve as the capital of Israel.

4) Unilateral measures taken by Israel since 1967 cannot be allowed to dictate or prejudice the final status of Jerusalem. Such measures include buildings, confiscation of land, barriers and walls, as well as political and legal documents.

Source: ATFP, 6 December. 2007
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