Shepherd's Hotel owned by Moskowitz
Shepherd's Hotel owned by Moskowitz Israel news photo: Flash 90

France summoned Daniel Shek, the Israeli ambassador in Paris, to demand that Israel stop all building for Jews in eastern Jerusalem. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Tuesday afternoon. "The Israeli ambassador in Washington was summoned and the ambassador in Paris has now been summoned to the Foreign Ministry," Kouchner told reporters at a weekly news conference.

He was referring to Israeli Ambassador in Washington Michael Oren, who was reportedly summoned, although several media sources in the United States have contradicted the report, stating that his meeting with American government officials was part of routine discussions.

France’s bold move, coupled with increasingly harsh criticism of Israel by Russia, have strengthened U.S. President Barack Obama’s determination to enforce his demands that Israel stop construction for Jews. American officials said that the building activity is a negative factor on negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. Neither the State Department nor the White House has commented whether its demands extend to construction for Arabs.

The apparent restriction on Jews in effect would remove from negotiations the status of eastern Jerusalem, which was restored to the Jewish State in the Six-Day War 42 years ago. Hundreds of buildings in the area are owned by Jews who were forced to leave their homes under the British Mandate and during the War of Independence in 1948.
Hundreds of buildings in the area are owned be Jews who were forced to leave their homes under the British Mandate and during the War of Independence in 1948.

Foreign media also have joined the coalition, headlining on Tuesday a report that while Israelis in Judea and Samaria comprise 3.1 percent of the entire Israel population, the government allocates 4.1 percent of the budget for Jewish communities in the area. The report did not include the parts of Jerusalem that were restored to Israel in 1967 and where an additional 4 percent of the total population lives.

Russia has joined forces with President Obama. Its special Middle East envoy Alexander Salatanov, during at visit to Jordan, called for a “complete cessation” of what foreign media are increasingly calling “settlements’ in eastern Jerusalem. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko demanded on Tuesday that “the settlement should be stopped immediately in line with the Roadmap," although the American plan does not stipulate a unilateral halt to construction. It states that the status of Jerusalem will be resolved by negotiations between the PA and Israel.

President Obama is sending U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell back to Israel this week and the Palestinian Authority in an effort to reach an understanding will all sides. Previous planned meetings with Israeli officials were postponed twice because of the wide gap while Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has made it clear that eastern Jerusalem is under Israeli sovereignty.

The particular issue that has headlined the building activity is the development of the abandoned Shepherd's Hotel owned by American millionaire Irving Moskowitz.

TIME magazine noted on Tuesday that it appears President Obama is moving towards a fixed timetable to resolve the conflict. However, it added, “The palpable distrust each side [Israel and the Palestinian Authority] has shown of the other during Obama's initial mediation effort casts a pall of doubt over their readiness to negotiate a deal.

The magazine reported that the Americans government is trying to seek concessions from the PA and the Arab world to pacify Israel, but the chances for success are slim while the PA enjoys the support of most of the world.

TIME added, “Whatever his intentions, [PA Chairman Mahmoud] Abbas' political weakness has effectively neutered him as an effective peace interlocutor…. Abbas is under pressure from Fatah leaders who openly challenge his fealty to Washington…."

“For many Middle East watchers, the key question will be whether Obama sets a deadline for such talks. And what it plans to do if, as seems quite possible if not probable, the two sides fail to reach agreement."

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