Israel aims to block Palestinian census

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Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, was yesterday poised to push through a law preventing the Palestinian Authority from taking a census of Palestinians in east Jerusalem.

It would prevent all actions by the Palestinian Authority which Israel considers inconsistent with its sovereignty. When he won the election last year, Mr Netanyahu said Shimon Peres, his predecessor, would divide Jerusalem. There are 180,000 Palestinians with Jerusalem identity cards, though many live in Palestinian suburbs of the city which are outside the municipal boundaries. The Palestinian Authority is conducting a census of the 1.5 million Palestinians who live on the West Bank and 900,000 who live in Gaza. Despite his intransigence on Jerusalem, Mr Netanyahu is reported secretly to have frozen the next stage of construction at Har Homa, the Jewish neighbourhood planned for the outskirts of the city. The US is pressing Israel to quit at least 12 per cent of the West Bank in the next stage of the Israeli pull-out. -