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U.S. demands Palestinians release citizen held for selling land to settlers

The Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim as seen from East Jerusalem. Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

The Trump administration has demanded that the Palestinian Authority release a Palestinian — and U.S. citizen — currently being held in Ramallah. The man, Isaam Akel, was arrested two months ago by the Palestinian General Intelligence Service for allegedly selling real estate in East Jerusalem to Israeli settlers.

Why it matters: The Palestinian Authority is cracking down on sales of land by Palestinians to Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. According to Palestinian law, such deals are illegal. The Palestinians claim Jewish settlers are trying to buy property from Palestinians in East Jerusalem to prevent the eventual establishment of a Palestinian capital there — and it's exacerbated by the Trump administration's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, move the U.S. embassy to the city and downgrade the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem that conducted relations with the Palestinians.

What they're saying: U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who was given authority over U.S. relations with the Palestinians in addition to his portfolio as ambassador to Israel with the consulate downgrate, tweeted today that Akel's "suspected 'crime' is Selling land to a Jew. ... Akel’s incarceration is antithetical to the values of the US & to all who advocate the cause of peaceful coexistence. We demand his immediate release."

The big picture: Relations between the Trump administration and the Palestinian Authority are at an all time law. The Palestinians have boycotted the White House since Trump's Jerusalem announcement. The only channel of communication between the parties is between the CIA and the Palestinian General Intelligence Service — the same agency which arrested Akel.

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