School aid stakes a claim in Jerusalem
Palestinians act with eye to future
DAHIAT AL-BARID, West Bank — Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad yesterday staked a claim to Israeli-controlled east Jerusalem, announcing that his government quietly helped fund the renovation of 14 schools in what the Palestinians hope will be their capital.
However, Fayyad stopped short of a full-fledged confrontation with Israel. He heeded an Israeli warning not to set foot in Jerusalem for the announcement and instead chose a school on the edge of the city as a venue.
The fate of Jerusalem is one of the most difficult issues Israelis and Palestinians would have to try to resolve in a peace deal.
Peace talks, launched in September, have run aground over Israeli settlement construction and aren’t even close to addressing claims to Jerusalem. But President Obama hopes to broker an agreement by September.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will not relinquish east Jerusalem.
Fayyad, who became prime minister in 2007, has devised a two-year program of building the institutions of a future Palestine. As part of the program, which is to be completed by August, Fayyad has also tried to push forward projects in areas Israel considers off-limits to Palestinian development.
Yesterday’s announcement about the school renovations marked his boldest public foray into east Jerusalem.
An aide said the Palestinian Authority contributed more than $5 million, funneled through civic groups, to renovate 14 private Palestinian schools in east Jerusalem and an additional one on the edge of the city, in the West Bank suburb of Dahiat al-Barid, where Fayyad spoke yesterday.
Renovating the schools “is an important achievement along our path toward freedom and independence,’’ Fayyad said.
He acknowledged that he didn’t enter Jerusalem because of the Israeli warnings, saying he did not want to divert attention from the school program. Fayyad noted that, like other Palestinian officials, he is subject to Israeli restrictions on movement.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said Palestinian government activity in Jerusalem is not permitted under the interim agreements that helped set up the Palestinian Authority.