The American Committee on Jerusalem, along with Legal Counsel George Salem, held a congressional briefing in Washington, DC on 17 February to appraise lawmakers and the media of the fact that 19 Palestinian Jerusalem families have been traced as owners of the property, which the Israeli government has set aside for relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem. At least 88 of the original owners or their heirs are US citizens, 43 are Canadians and Europeans and hundreds have other nationalities.
A lease agreement was signed for the property, totaling 31.288 dunums between Israel and the US on 18 January 1989. A small amount of the land was "freehold", land requisitioned by Britain and of which it assumed ownership. The majority of the land,composed of five parcels, was "hired land." One parcel was waqf and the remaining four were rented from private owners. As of the 15 May 1948, these parcels were owned by 76 Palestinians of 19 prominent Jerusalem families. In a letter from the State Department on 6th September 1989, the Department noted that it was aware of claims from the Islamic Waqf but "has not been able to locate any record or support for this claim."
According to a letter in late December 1999 from Beth Jones, Principal deputy assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs "The 1989 Land Lease and Purchase Agreement between the United States and Israel … identified particular property for
this purpose that might be leased to the US by the government of Israel under certain conditions." "As of today, however, the US has not entered into a lease for this or any other property under the Agreement." According to Paragraph 2.1 entitled, "Principle Terms
of the Lease and Purchase" "…the Government of Israel will immediately initiate all measures required for obtaining the sole and lawful ownership of the properties, free from any encumbrances or third party claims."
Construction of the access road for the new military checkpoint between Bethlehem and Jerusalem was completed in February. According to official Israeli plans, the existing checkpoint will be maintained for tourists, Israeli citizens and residents, while Palestinians seeking to enter Jerusalem will be forced to use a new checkpoint with increased Israeli security procedures.
Israeli Positions on Jerusalem
"There is no greater threat than the demographic trends that could lead to the loss of a dominant Jewish majority."
"In 1967, right after the liberation of the city, the local Palestinian population numbered 60,000. Today, 32 years later, it numbers 230,000. I do not want to add them to the ranks of our non-Jewish citizens."
"I support the need for a clear separation between the two political entities, and I am sure we will not achieve this if we leave an opening that allows uncontrolled movement in Jerusalem. Keeping the city united under Israeli rule has exposed, and will continue to expose, Israel to the creeping infiltration of Palestinian Arabs. We must do everything we can to prevent the infiltration and settlement of Palestinians in Israeli territory."
Shlomo Gazit, Retired Israeli General (Jerusalem Post, 1 February 2000)