JERUSALEM — Palestinian officials reacted in anger on Tuesday to U.S. legislation that encouraged recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, warning that it would complicate peace efforts and could cost lives.
President Bush also expressed strong reservations a day earlier as he signed a spending bill that urges his administration to shift the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which both the Palestinian and Israelis consider their capital. Bush said he would treat the clauses as a recommendation rather than an order.
Saeb Erekat, a member of the Palestinian Cabinet, said Bush's signing of the bill "undermines all efforts being exerted to revive the peace process and put it back on track."
He called it "a flagrant violation" of agreements signed by the United States and Israel to negotiate the permanent status of Jerusalem.
There was no immediate Israeli reaction to the bill.
In the bill, Congress specified for the first time that no funds may be used for the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem unless it is under the supervision of the American ambassador to Israel. It also said no money could be spent on official U.S. documents that listed Israel without identifying Jerusalem as the capital.
Bush himself insisted that "U.S. policy regarding Jerusalem has not changed" as he signed the bill on Monday.
Bush said he would not treat the bill's provisions as an order because they would "impermissibly interfere with the president's constitutional authority to conduct the nation's foreign affairs."
The clauses "would be new if they were binding," U.S. Embassy spokesman Paul Patin said by telephone. "We don't consider them as binding."
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher indicated that the status of Jerusalem "must be negotiated between the parties," Israelis and Palestinians. Israel annexed the eastern part of Jerusalem, including sites sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians, after capturing it during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon considers all of Jerusalem Israel's indivisible capital.
The previous, more moderate government of Ehud Barak had offered the Palestinians a share of east Jerusalem, but the sides could never agree on the details, and on other issues, and peace talks broke down in January 2001 after the eruption of violence a few months earlier.
"Such resolutions could mean Palestinian and Israeli lives," Erakat said, adding that the Palestinians would raise the issue with the U.N. Security Council, the Arab League and the Islamic Conference Organization.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Cabinet met in Yasser Arafat's wrecked headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, two days after Israeli troops withdrew from inside the compound.
Erekat said Arafat would ask the Palestinian legislature to give him more time to replace the Cabinet forced to resign due to legislative pressure for administrative and power-sharing reforms.
Despite the requested delay, "We will continue with the reforms," Erekat said.
Israel's army said Tuesday at least 32 Palestinians were arrested overnight and said 23 of them were "wanted suspects" in attacks on Israel. Many of them were captured in Jenin in the far northern part of the West Bank.
By dawn, Israeli forces occupied three buildings near Arafat's headquarters, which they had abandoned on Sunday following a 10-day siege that destroyed most of the structures surrounding the Palestinian leaders office.
Troops were seen on the roof of the eight-story Palestinian Ministry of Culture building, about 500 yards from Arafat's office, and on the roof of another eight-story building still under construction. They were also seen at least briefly in a nearby house. The army said it could not comment on deployments.
Israel attacked Arafat's compound on Sept. 19 following a suicide bomb attack on a Tel Aviv bus that killed six Israelis. Despite withdrawing under heavy U.S. pressure, Israeli officials said they would still seek to arrest alleged terrorists they said were harbored alongside Arafat.
Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said Tuesday that the army believes that suspected terrorists remain holed up in the building along with Arafat.
"The goal of the blockade around [the compound] is to allow a certain amount of inspection so that Israel can put its hands on all those inside who are suspects if they try to come out," he said.
One Israeli soldier was killed and another was seriously wounded Monday when gunmen fired on troops from a building in the West Bank city of Nablus. Return fire from tanks apparently set off a blaze that sent black smoke pouring into the sky from a partially completed 10-story building.
The Al-Quds Brigades, a wing of the militant group Islamic Jihad, sent a statement to reporters in Beirut claiming responsibility for the attack.
In separate incidents Monday, Palestinian security officials said a 10-year-old boy was shot to death and 25 other people were injured in clashes in Nablus and doctors said an 11-year-old Palestinian boy was shot to death in a nearby refugee camp while throwing stones at soldiers on his way to school.
The military had no comment on the incident involving the 10-year-old, but said soldiers had fired at a youth who was about to throw a firebomb in the other. Nablus has been under a military-enforced curfew for most of the past three months.
Early Tuesday, a Palestinian was killed by tank fire in Gaza after militants threw grenades at Israeli forces just outside the Gaza Strip, witnesses said. The man, 50, was a guard at a garage. Islamic Jihad, claiming responsibility for the grenade attack, said the attackers returned safely.www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/world/ny-israelmain,0,6247038.story?coll=ny%2DwE-mail this article