Israel hotel demolition escalates fight for East Jerusalem
The Shepherd Hotel demolition is at the forefront of a Jewish effort to settle East Jerusalem that opponents charge could preclude the formation of a Palestinian state with a capital in the holy city.
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that his government did not have a hand in the move, but that it would not prevent Jews from buying property in Jerusalem. "The idea that Jews should be forbidden to buy property in certain neighborhoods of Jerusalem is not something that is acceptable to the Israeli government," a spokesman said.Skip to next paragraph
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How Sheikh Jarrah became a flashpoint
Sheikh Jarrah, a once-elite Arab neighborhood that was home to the American Colony Hotel and many international consulates, has emerged as a key flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian battle for Jerusalem.
In that context, Moskowitz’s project – together with plans for a conference center and 200 new Jewish homes where several dozen Palestinian homes currently stand – become much more than a real estate dispute.
"We see this matter as extremely dangerous," said Hatem Abdel Qader, who oversees Jerusalem affairs for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz. He accused Israel of trying to “create a belt of settlements” around East Jerusalem – a belt that many say would cut off the Old City from the West Bank and make it impossible to establish a contiguous Palestinian state with a capital in Jerusalem.
Because it goes to the heart of the Israeli-Arab conflict and the default solution espoused for two decades – two states with separate capitals in Jerusalem – the Shepherd Hotel project could well reverberate far beyond the holy city. Egypt and Jordan, the two Arab countries that have peaceful relations with Israel, both condemned the move. Egypt warned of an outbreak of violence in the West Bank, while Jordan suggested that it could destabilize the region as a whole.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at the outset of her trip to the Persian Gulf, said the project undermined the peace process. President Obama, early in his administration, had pressed Prime Minister Netanyahu to cease not only West Bank settlements but the expansion of Jewish areas in East Jerusalem as well, which the United Nations has repeatedly condemned as illegal under international law.
Undeterred by international condemnation
But those behind such expansion are undeterred by international condemnation.
Daniel Luria, whose organization Ateret Cohanim has worked with Moskowitz to settle East Jerusalem and the Old City and was reportedly on site to watch the demolition Sunday, says that the Jewish “redemption” of Jerusalem is necessary to prepare the way for the Messiah. He therefore rejects the theory of land for peace, which is an underpinning of the 1995 Oslo Accords that outlined a two-state solution in which Israel would allow Palestinians to create a capital in East Jerusalem.
“We’re not here because of grace of world, but by the grace of God,” he said in a Monitor interview in August 2010. “When we slap God in the face and say we don’t want this land, we’re willing to share this land … then we see the Oslo calamity.”
Updated at 2:45 p.m. on January 10, 2011.