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Washington Considers Israel's Demolition of Palestinian Homes 'Provocative' - 2002-01-15

The Bush administration is criticizing Israel for what it terms its "provocative" demolition of Palestinian homes in recent days. The demolitions in Gaza and mainly-Arab East Jerusalem have set off a debate within Israel itself over the controversial practice.

Administration officials say they understand the need for Israel to take steps in its own defense. But they say the recent house-demolitions, defended by Israel as anti-terrorist acts, are only inflaming tensions and increasing the prospect of violence.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher spoke after Israeli authorities leveled several Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem on grounds they were put up without proper permits. "Steps such as the displacement of people through the demolition of homes or property, like those that occurred in Jerusalem earlier today, are provocative," he said. "They undermine trust and confidence. They create additional hardship, and contribute to an escalation in tension and violence."

The comments came as Israeli politicians debated the military's demolition of dozens of buildings in a Palestinian refugee camp last week, apparent retaliation for an attack that killed four Israeli soldiers, which U.N. officials said left hundreds of people homeless.

Mr. Boucher said if the debate leads to a demolition ban, it would contribute to a restoration of calm, and help U.S. efforts to get a permanent cease-fire.