Shimon HaTzaddik neighborhood
Shimon HaTzaddik neighborhoodIsrael news photo (file)

Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren was summoned urgently to the State Department over the weekend to hear that Israel must stop a private construction project in its capital. The project is being carried out at the site of the Shepherd Hotel in Sheikh Jarrah, near the Shimon HaTzaddik neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem.

The owner of the property, since 1985, is Dr. Irving Moskowitz, who has built other projects in eastern Jerusalem – most notably the Maaleh HaZeitim neighborhood in Ras el-Amud, below and to the south of the Temple Mount.

The Shepard Hotel, Jerusalem

The new project currently calls for the construction of 20 apartments. It took 20 years to receive the necessary permits, which were received only three months ago. 

Oren Takes Tough Stand on Jerusalem, Concedes in Judea/Samaria

Oren reportedly took a tough stand against the American “orders,” but at the same time implied that the Americans do have a say in Judea and Samaria. “Jerusalem is not the same as Judea and Samaria,” Oren told the Americans, “and Israel builds in eastern Jerusalem just as it has been building in the Aravah [northern Negev] for the last 40 years. Israel does not agree to stop this construction.”

Oren explained that Arabs live in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem, including 70 Arab families in French Hill, very close to Sheikh Jarrah.

Gov't Voices Stand Up for Jerusalem

Public Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovitch, speaking on Army Radio, similarly defended the capital: “Jerusalem is a united city with municipal borders that are clear and defined to the whole world. Wherever the city and country has given a permit, there will be construction.”

Science Minister Rabbi Prof. Daniel Hershkovitz, head of the Jewish Home party, said, “The American demand proves that whoever demands a freeze in Judea and Samaria will end up demanding a halt to Jewish building in a neighborhood that houses government offices. I invite American officials to visit my office in Sheikh Jarrah so that they will see Israel’s sovereignty in united Jerusalem.”

Former Senator George Mitchell, the special U.S. envoy to the Middle East, was to have arrived in Israel for another set of talks on Monday, but has pushed off his visit by a week.

MK Danny Danon (Likud) said: “President Obama is employing the salami system. First he wants an end to construction for natural growth in Judea and Samaria, and now we learn that he wants an end to Jewish building at the foot of Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus. Only the Israeli government has the right to decide what happens within the borders of united Jerusalem.”

Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein said, “This proves how dangerous it is to enter into a discussion over halting construction in the settlements in Judea and Samaria. It will lead to a demand to totally freeze Jewish life in general in the entire State of Israel.”

The Jerusalem Post reports that Obama administration officials expressed to the newspaper their satisfaction with recent measures taken by the Netanyahu government to remove anti-terror checkpoints impeding Palestinian Authority traffic and foster economic growth. The paper reported that the Israeli government feels that its efforts in this direction “have been overlooked by the international community.” The American praise was expressed in a specific statement to the newspaper.