Saudi-Qatari summit in Casablanca discusses regional developments

Israeli resumes house demolitions in Jerusalem as U.S. expresses concerns

Obama calls for direct negotiations, Netanyahu evades any commitments

Israeli Knesset passes drafts on Jerusalem, Golan

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud held at his residence a meeting with Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Emir of the State of Qatar.

During the meeting, the overall developments at the Gulf, Arab, Islamic and international arenas, foremost the Palestinian cause as well as prospects for cooperation between the two countries and ways of enhancing them in all fields were discussed.

The meeting was attended by Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Riyadh region and Prince Miqren bin Abdulaziz, Chief of General Intelligence from the Saudi Side.

It was also attended by Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al Thani, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs from the Qatari side.

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud received at his residence Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Emir of the State of Qatar and the accompanying delegation.

King Abdullah has held a luncheon in honor of Emir Hamad and the accompanying delegation.

The audience and banquet were attended by Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Riyadh region; Prince Faisal bin Mohammed bin Saud Al-Kabir; Prince Miqren bin Abdulaziz, Chief of General Intelligence; Prince Faisal bin Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Saud, Minister of Education; Prince Turki bin Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Saud, Advisor to the King; Prince Dr. Bandar bin Salman bin Mohammed Al Saud, Advisor to the King; Prince Dr. Faisal bin Salman bin Abdulaziz; Prince Abdulaziz bin Fahd bin Abdulaziz, Minister of State, Member of the Cabinet, President of the Cabinet Presidency Court; Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki bin Faisal bin Turki bin Abdulaziz; Prince Mansour bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz; Prince Mash'hoor bin Abdulaziz; a number of ministers, officials and the Saudi ambassador to Morocco.

Sheikh Hamad had arrived in Casablanca city earlier this week.

Upon arrival at Mohammed V International Airport, Emir of the State of Qatar was received by a host of senior officials.

Meanwhile, Israel demolished a Palestinian home in east Jerusalem on Tuesday because it had been built without a permit, officials and witnesses said, a move that drew international condemnation.

Police ordered the six members of the Al-Rajabi family to remove all their belongings before an excavator moved in and destroyed the single-story concrete structure, an AFP photographer said.

Another two uninhabited houses still being built in another neighborhood were also destroyed, according to the photographer.

The demolitions took place in the mostly Arab eastern part of the city, which Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed to its capital in a move not recognized internationally.

The Palestinians view east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, and the city's status has been one of the most intractable issues at the heart of more than a decade of on-again off-again peace talks.

The demolitions came a day after Israel approved the construction of 32 new homes in a Jewish settlement in east Jerusalem.

The developments in east Jerusalem were condemned by the US, which is brokering indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

"The United States has made it clear that it disagrees with some government of Israel actions in Jerusalem... and has urged all parties to avoid actions that could undermine trust," said State Department spokesman Philip Crowley.

The EU and UN also expressed unhappiness.

"I have to express my deep concern about the latest developments in east Jerusalem," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said during a news conference with Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad in Brussels.

"These are counterproductive developments. Settlements and demolition of houses are illegal, they are against international law, they constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two state solution impossible," he added.

Fayyad said Israel's actions were "inconsistent with the need to continue to have the concept of viability for a two state solution".

United Nations Middle East Envoy Robert Serry called on all parties to "refrain from provocative actions."

"I continue to follow with concern developments in east Jerusalem and continuing tensions in the city," a statement from his office said.

Thousands of Palestinian homes and other structures in east Jerusalem are slated for demolition because they were built without permits from the municipality, which residents and human rights groups say are extremely difficult to obtain.

Israel had largely refrained from carrying out demolitions and scaled back construction in recent months, under pressure from Washington which has called on both sides to avoid taking actions that could jeopardize a final peace agreement.

A municipal spokesman said the planning and building committee had authorized more than 100 building permit requests from all parts of Jerusalem, including Arab neighborhoods.

Israel views all of Jerusalem as its "eternal, undivided" capital and refused to include it in a limited West Bank settlement moratorium announced late last year that is set to expire in September.

A U.S. State Department spokesman said on Thursday the United States is confident that Israelis and Palestinians will resume direct peace talks, but refused to give a specific timeline.

"This is a decision that is first and foremost up to the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. They have to make a decision after working on the details of the process they have enough confidence to move into direct negotiations," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said.

"I think we have a strong belief, at some point in time, direct negotiations will be renewed. Whether that's days from now, weeks from now, I don't think we're in a position to say, at this point, " he said.

On July 6, U.S. President Barack Obama said after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he hoped the direct talks can resume before September when Israel's 10-month moratorium on settlement expansion expires.

George Mitchell, the U.S. Middle East envoy who mediates indirect talks between Israelis and Palestinians starting in May, is in the region for a new round of efforts to clear hurdles for direct talks.

Earlier, Arab media reported that Mitchell is carrying "new motivation" to the Palestinians to encourage them to go into face- to-face negotiations with Israel.

But the Palestinian side said it refused to engage in direct negotiations before Israel freezes settlements in disputed areas.

A national referendum will have to be held before any part of the Golan Heights or eastern Jerusalem is given away, according to a bill that has now passed a significant hurdle.

The Knesset House and Law Committees, sitting in a joint session, voted to approve the bill, meaning that it can be raised in the Knesset for its final readings. If it passes these, it becomes law.

The joint committee passed the bill by a 7-2 vote, despite the government’s opposition as manifest in its rejection of the proposal in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation.

Many Knesset Members were thrilled with the results. Likud MK Yariv Levine, the driving force behind the proposal, said, “This law has supreme national importance in preserving national unity, and will obligate every Israeli government to reach an agreement that is acceptable to the majority of the nation.”

MK Carmel Shama, also of the Likud, said that is a “holiday” for the Golan, while MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union), a member of the joint committee, said, “We will soon bring the bill to the Knesset for its final vote, and I have no doubt that it will pass by a wide majority. The voters’ desire not to have sovereign territories of the country ceded without asking the populace first, will become law.”

“This bill effectively puts an end to the hallucinations of those who hope to give away the Golan or divide Jerusalem in exchange for empty promises,” Eldad added.

Voices of opposition were predictably heard from the left. MK Chaim Oron (Meretz) said that the bill is an attempt to sabotage peace efforts. MK Shlomo Mola (Kadima) took a political jab at the Likud in saying that the bill shows that the ruling party does not trust its leader, Binyamin Netanyahu, not to make a deal with Syria involving a withdrawal from the Golan.

As of now, the government is permitted to cede sovereign territory only if a majority of the Knesset – at least 61 MKs – approves.

The new bill does not apply to Judea, Samaria, and the Jordan Valley, and would not have applied to Gaza, as these areas were never annexed to Israel and were/are still run under military law.

Sammy Bar-Lev, head of the Golan Regional Council, noted that Netanyahu has voted for this law in the past more than once, “and there is therefore no reason why this critically important law should not pass in the Knesset.

“Both the Golan and Jerusalem are sovereign areas of the State of Israel,” Bar-Lev said, “and it is inconceivable that the Golan, and all the more so Jerusalem, should be given away without the consent of a national majority.”