Netanyahu: Building on site of East Jerusalem hotel corresponds with Israeli law
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Bureau issued a statement Monday saying that the Israeli government was not involved in the demolition of the contentious Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem, adding that the building of apartments on the site corresponded with Israeli law.
Bulldozers began razing parts of the Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem on Sunday, with the aim of creating apartments for Jewish families, a move that drew international condemnation.
The hotel, located in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, was purchased 25 years ago by settler patron and American Jewish businessman Irving Moskowitz. When conferred 18 months ago, authorization for the conversion of the hotel caused a political storm.
"Actions taken at the Shepherd Hotel were done by private people corresponding with Israeli law," the Prime Minister's Bureau wrote in a statement. "The Israeli government was not involved in the events."
"It cannot be expected from the State of Israel to forbid Jews from purchasing private property in Jerusalem. There is no democratic country in the world that would impose such a ban on Jews and it cannot be expected that Israel will be the one to do so."
"Just as Jerusalem's Arab citizens are allowed to buy or rent assets in Jerusalem's neighborhoods that have a Jewish majority, Jews are allowed to rent property in a Jerusalem neighborhood with an Arab majority."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the construction on Sunday, saying Israel's move to proceed with an East Jerusalem settlement project by razing a derelict hotel undermined the peace effort.
Egypt and Jordan joined Clinton's condemnation on Monday, with Egypt's foreign ministry issuing a statement saying that establishing an Israeli settlement at the hotel's site may bring about renewed violence in the Palestinian Authority's territories. Jordan's foreign ministry said the move may destabilize the region.
The Shepherd Hotel controversy marked the first in a series of disputes between the Netanyahu government and the Obama administration over construction in East Jerusalem. The building became a symbol of settlement plans in East Jerusalem for two primary reasons. First of all, the facility will become an entirely new compound for Jewish residence in the heart of the foreign consulates area of East Jerusalem. This will be a new facility, rather than the expansion of an existing Jewish neighborhood.
Second, the hotel was built by Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem in the 1940s. The fact that the mufti, the Zionist movement's most prominent rival, never actually lived in the building himself has not stopped right-wing activists from boasting about "conquering" the facility from Haj Amin.