White House ‘concerned’ over alleged plans for eastern Jerusalem

The United States was quick to express concern on Monday evening, after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu indicated he is considering taking away the Israeli ID cards from Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem.

Channel 2 reported Sunday that Netanyahu had suggested the idea in the Cabinet. He reportedly said that “we cannot continue with the present situation outside the fence,” and suggested that “taking away the blue identity cards from the residents” be considered.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest on Monday said that as far as the government in Washington knows, Israel is not currently considering such a move.

Earnest added that if Israel were planning such a move “it would obviously be of some concern to us”, while noting the “importance of all sides avoiding provocative actions and rhetoric.”

Netanyahu had told members of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that he intends to tour eastern Jerusalem to examine the situation there from up close, and that he will invite some Cabinet members to accompany him there, before he reaches a decision regarding the ID cards.

But a senior Israeli political official clarified to Arutz Sheva on Monday evening that the idea is not even close to being implemented.

“This is an initial examination of the process, not anything that will happen soon,” the official said, stressing that Netanyahu has only asked to examine the issue and has not instructed that such a plan be promoted.

Prime Ministers since 1967 have vowed not to re-divide Jerusalem, after its unification in the Six Day War. Taking away the permanent resident status of eastern Jerusalem’s Arabs could be interpreted as the first step toward undoing the annexation of eastern Jerusalem and the application of Israeli sovereignty there.

On the other hand, it could also be seen as a punitive move, stripping the population of the numerous benefits Israeli residency status gives it, as payback for the terror wave.