Netanyahu rejects US demand to cancel East Jerusalem housing project
Opening the weekly cabinet session Sunday, July 19, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu sharply rejected the US State Department demand handed to Israeli ambassador Michael Oran to put a stop to construction work at the Shepherd’s Hotel site in Jerusalem. The abandoned hotel is located between the Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah and Mount Scopus, where the Hebrew University and Hadassah are situated.
Netanyahu stressed the issue of construction in Jerusalem, capital of Israel and the Jewish people, is not open to discussion. Hundreds of Arab residents have purchased apartments in the west of the city without difficulty, he pointed out, and there is no bar on Jews buying or building on the eastern side. Building permits are issued by city authorities for Jews and Arabs alike in the open, undivided city of Jerusalem, said Netanyahu.
The Shepherd’s Hotel site originally belonged to the Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini and his heirs turned it into a hotel in the years between 1948 and 1967 when Jews were forbidden to set foot in Jerusalem. In the 1980s, the Husseinis sold the site to American businessman Irwin Moskowitz who intends building a 20-apartment Jewish housing estate there.
debkafile‘s political sources add: The left-wing Meretz party leader Haim Oron predictably supported the US demand issued in response to a protest from Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas. This circular process has become a regular feature of US-Israeli relations, usually beginning with left-wing Israeli activists “alerting” the US administration to Jewish construction activity on the West Bank and Jerusalem in order to trigger a Palestinian complaint and invoke American pressure on the Israeli government.
Moskowitz has devoted himself to purchasing land from Palestinians in east Jerusalem for the construction of Jewish neighborhoods. Likewise, Jewish neighborhoods abutting on east Jerusalem and the West Bank, such as French Hill and Pisgat Zeev, have in recent years attracted a growing number of Palestinians apartment purchasers.
Netayahu has made it clear, like his predecessors, that Jerusalem is no “settlement.”