Fayyad to Inaugurate E. J'lem Schools Renovated on PA's Dime

No new schools, but $17 million earmarked for refurbishing

Palestinian Prime Minster Salam Fayyad will preside over ceremonies on Tuesday at two refurbished schools in East Jerusalem. Although the visits will be held on the eastern side of the West Bank separation fence, they will likely evoke responses from rightist politicians in Israel.

One of the schools is in the neighborhood of Dahiyat al-Salam, next to the Shuafat refugee camp. The other is in Dahiyat al-Barid, just north of Neveh Ya'akov.

The Palestinian Authority is on the verge of completing the renovations of 15 schools in East Jerusalem, including buildings in the Old City, Sheikh Jarrah and Wadi Joz.

Haaretz has learned that the PA is allocating $17 million for maintenance costs for Palestinian educational institutions in East Jerusalem. Most of the funds are contributions by two Muslim banks - the Islamic Bank and the Al-Aqsa Bank.

Palestinian officials said the construction of new schools in East Jerusalem is not an option due to what they say are bureaucratic obstacles put up by City Hall.

As a result, the PA is focusing on renovating schools that lie within territories controlled by Jordan until the Six-Day War in 1967, including outlying Arab villages as well as schools in the Old City.

A PA official said the Fayyad government had no intention of "abandoning" the Palestinians who have been deprived of sufficient municipal resources. The PA accuses the Jerusalem municipality of neglecting the predominantly Arab eastern part of the city - which the Palestinians claim as their capital - particularly in the field of education.

The schools that have been refurbished are not subject to the supervision of the Israeli Education Ministry. The curricula offered to students in these schools have been sanctioned by the PA. These institutions are mainly funded by private organizations and charities. PA officials declined to provide Haaretz with a list of the renovated schools.

On Sunday, Arab and left-leaning MKs were angered by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation's decision to approve a series of measures offering economic incentives for young Israelis to take up residence in Jerusalem.

Yesterday, Fayyad was in the West Bank village of Tormosayya, just south of Nablus, to take part in an olive harvest organized by the United Nations on the occasion of UN Day. He was joined by UN special envoy Robert Serry.

Earlier this month, unidentified individuals poisoned hundreds of olive trees in the village. Residents suspect that Israeli settlers from the nearby outpost of Adi-Ad were involved.

Serry said he decided to mark UN Day with a special harvest and feast with Palestinian families in the village. He praised Fayyad and PA President Mahmoud Abbas, and said the UN supports the Palestinian drive for an independent state by August 2011.

Fayyad said the Israeli government is to be held responsible for "terrorist attacks perpetrated by settlers." He said the assaults against olive growers have intensified recently.

Earlier this month, Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the security services to track down those who torched a Palestinian mosque in a village near Bethlehem.

"Whoever committed this act is a terrorist in every regard, intent on harming any chance for peace and dialogue with the Palestinians," Barak said. "This was a disgraceful act and a stain on the State of Israel and its values."