Israel arrested two senior Palestinian Authority (PA) officials on Saturday on charges of abducting a Palestinian-American citizen. The missing man, a 55-year-old resident of Bethlehem who worked for the PA Ministry for Local Government, was reportedly abducted two weeks ago in Jerusalem. He has both American and Israeli citizenship. He is allegedly being held in Ramallah, charged by the PA with the crime of facilitating the sale of property in Jerusalem to a Jewish organization.
The PA officials arrested were Adnan Geith, appointed by the PA as governor of Jerusalem, and Col. Jihad Fakih, commander in the PA’s General Intelligence Service for the Jerusalem area. Geith, a senior Palestinian Liberation Organization activist, was appointed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas as “governor” of Jerusalem in late August. Geith has been arrested multiple times for clashing with Israeli security forces.
The Palestinian Authority condemned what it said was an “abduction” of the two Palestinian officials, but it did not comment on the specifics of the charges against their officials.
The U.S citizen allegedly abducted by the PA reportedly received a $25,000 commision for facilitating the sale of the property owned by an Arab widow. Selling or renting land to Jews is considered treason under Palestinian Authority law and is punishable by death or hard labor.
The Law for the Implementation of the Agreement on the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area – Restriction on Activity – 1994 bans the PA from carrying out any police or security activities within the area of Israel. This restriction includes east Jerusalem.
Nevertheless, a 2014 Jerusalem Post article cited Bassem Eid, a Jerusalem-based Palestinian civil rights activist, as claiming he has followed cases of Jerusalemites kidnapped in the city and tortured to death in Ramallah by the Palestinian Authority’s Preventive Security Agency.
When asked about the report, a U.S. embassy spokesperson told the Post, “We are aware of reports that a U.S. citizen has been detained by the Palestinian Authority. When a U.S. citizen is incarcerated or detained overseas, the Department of State works to provide all appropriate consular assistance.”