By Dalibor Rohac, CNN Jerusalem
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Monday that there would be no American Consulate in East Jerusalem to accommodate a Palestinian resident who has been denied an American visa over an alleged terror sympathizer.
“It’s unacceptable, it’s in line with the Palestinian attack on Zionism and the truth, it’s inexplicable. That is why we are making it clear that we are determined and we’re going to do everything we can to ensure Jerusalem is preserved as the capital of the Jewish state,” Netanyahu said in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour from Davos, Switzerland.
“The terrorists want to turn this country into an arena of violence. That would be catastrophic. Today, we are going to show the Palestinians just how severe that will be,” he said.
The US has been calling on the Palestinian Authority to revoke a travel ban on 73-year-old Maha Atef Ali-Thabet, a Palestinian who has lived in East Jerusalem since 1963. The Interior Ministry said Monday that an Israeli judge had rejected the petition, and the ban will remain in place.
In 2013, the US Embassy in Israel posted a tweet in celebration of Atef Ali-Thabet becoming Jerusalem’s first female police officer. “That includes breaking the color barrier!” read the message. The embassy returned the tweet to its website a year later.
The embassy would not comment about Atef Ali-Thabet’s case in a statement Tuesday.
Israel established its embassy in the western part of Jerusalem in May of last year following the recent US Embassy move to the contested city. The Palestinian Authority has criticized Israel’s move, arguing that a resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will only come about if East Jerusalem is considered a separate entity.
“It’s the equivalent of saying that there is no way we can have an American embassy,” Netanyahu said Monday. “To say there is no way we can have an American consulate here, because of one terrorist; it’s crazy. It’s wrong. It’s appalling.”
He continued: “Why are they harassing this woman? Because they see the existence of a Jewish state in the Holy Land as an impediment to their desire for independence? Why? This is simple; this is absurd. It’s out of proportion. This has no room in Jerusalem for an American consulate here.”
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin made the same comments at a media briefing in the city Monday.
“In Israel, we value the liberty and freedom of the 500,000 (Palestinians) who live here, as opposed to those 500,000 who live in the refugee camps or in refugee camps abroad,” Rivlin said.
“The city of Jerusalem is ours, and we will defend our capital as we have defended many others’ capitals throughout the world.”