March 24th, 2010
07:44 AM ET

Israel approves more housing in East Jerusalem

In a move likely to further strain relations between the United States and Israel, the municipality of Jerusalem gave final approval Wednesday for a controversial Israeli housing project in the heart of a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

Approval of the project paves the way for construction of 20 apartments being developed by American millionaire Irving Moskowitz on land that he purchased in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. Moskowitz, an avid supporter of Jewish building in East Jerusalem, purchased the land in 1985.

To make way for the new housing units the historic Shepherd Hotel which was built in the 1930s by a prominent Palestinian family would be torn down.

The Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem has become an area highly coveted by Jewish nationalists wishing to cement Jewish claims to the land, and it has become a fault line in the public debate about Israeli building in Arab areas of East Jerusalem. Every week hundreds of Palestinians, Israelis, and international activists stage protests in the neighborhood to protest Israeli government building policies.

East Jerusalem was captured from Jordan in the 1967 war between Israel and it's Arab neighbors. Israel claims sovereignty over all of Jerusalem, though this it is a claim not recognized by the international community.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capitol of their future state. In a terse statement, the Jerusalem Municipality argued the East Jerusalem construction was actually approved in July 2009 and that the owners of the land merely paid a necessary fee last week which generated an automatic approval for the project to proceed.

"This is distorted media information in order to create a provocation during the Prime Minister's visit to the United States" read the statement.

The building plan, which was given municipal approval last summer, was met with great disapproval from the United States which demanded that it be stopped. It was a demand, then as now, that fell on deaf ears.

At the time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet, "Our sovereignty over [Jerusalem] cannot be challenged. This means that residents of Jerusalem may purchase apartments in all parts of the city. We cannot accept the idea that
Jews will not have the right to live and purchase in all parts of Jerusalem."

Netanyahu echoed the same arguments in defense of the Israeli announcement two weeks ago to build 1,600 units of housing in a different East Jerusalem neighborhood. That announcement, made while U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden was visiting Israel, set off a diplomatic rift between the United States and Israel that both sides are still attempting to iron out.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Netanyahu met Wednesday evening in Washington to discuss Israel's plans for new housing units in East Jerusalem. The leaders did not appear before cameras, and there was no sign of an end to the dispute.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, called the approval "an intentional insult to the U.S. administration" and works against "any serious indirect or direct negotiations" between Israel and the Palestinians.

Rudeineh said the Obama administration "should put enough pressure on Israel to implement what has been written and issued by the Quartet in Moscow several days ago." On Friday, the Middle East Quartet, the United States, European Union, the United Nations, and Russia, called on both sides "to refrain from proactive actions" and for Israel to freeze all settlement
activity in an effort to promote peace talks.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Israel • World
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. tobi

    Israel clearly has shown disregard and disrespect to her staunchest ally. This is not what "friends" do to each other unless of course the relationship is different to what is portrayed to the public. In that, whatever israel decides to do the us must go along with it. albeit a bit of public show of disregard.
    When will the american people who have been hoodwinked all these years into unconditionally supporting israel wake up and demand that their tax dollars are not given away on a whim to israel who does not show them the same respect the US shows her? They must demand stronger actions by their leaders to hold israel accountable for actions caused that only further fuel distrust of america, and the cycle of violence that in the end costs US tax payers and people lives, and puts the US in further danger of being a target.
    You are not 'racist' to oppose israel's actions as carried out by a state, nor anti-semitic, you are asking for people to be held to account for the assistant that has been provided which has beniffted one side (israel) far more than it has benefitted the US.

    March 24, 2010 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
    • MIKI

      HEADLINE NEWS: ROCKETS INTO ISRAEL

      PRESIDENT AHAMINERDEJAD,OF IRAN, UPON HEARING OF THE ARAB COUNCEL AGREEING TO DIRECT TALKS WITH ISRAEL, ORDERS HAMAS TO FIRE ROCKETS INTO ASHKELON. HAMAS COMPLIES WITHIN MINUTES.

      July 30, 2010 at 4:37 am | Report abuse |
  2. A. Knox

    I want to know Israel do you really need these homes built ther now or is this just a defiant step that you are taking. I say if it is needed then build but if it is not needed then don't build and keep peace, if we all search for peace we will surly find it.

    March 24, 2010 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
  3. Emily

    God gave the land to the Jewish people. It belongs to them. Nobody has the right to try to tell them what to do with it. This is THE issue.

    March 24, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Colleen

    God gave the land to the Jewish people. Israel, once again, became a nation in 1947; they reclaimed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 1967. Jerusalem belongs to the Jews. The US has received blessing from God for being such a support to Israel all these years. It doesn't matter if the whole world is against Israel, the US is foolish to go against Israel. God said He will bless those who bless Israel, and curse those who curse Israel.... I don't think He was kidding, Mr. Obama.

    March 24, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. James Brown

    Can I have the phone number of God to confirm the claims?

    March 25, 2010 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  6. CheryQQ4

    When we talk about these out of control, rogue nations like N, Korea, Iran, etc, that act out defiantly, is there any difference with what Israel is doing? I think not.

    March 25, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Brother John of Dallas

    By divine right, the ancient Romans ruled a vast empire but lost it to the fate of history. Shall the Italians use that to reclaim their divine sovereignty? What about the Greeks? The Ottomans? the Russian Czars? the Victorian era British? the Persians? Every great kingdom in history has descendants alive today, and imagine a world where they all claim divine sovereignty over lost imperial cities. Leave history as it is. May the Lord bless both sides.

    March 25, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  8. JoJo

    Why Mr. Natanyahu come now and say that Jerusalem is Israel's capital for the last 3000 years. Now if it is the truth, why Israel didn't take it away from the Jordanian before the 6 day war. Lets remember the Arab States that first attack Israel, not the other way around. If Mr. Natanyahu statement has any truth in it Israel would have taken Jerusalem from the Jordanians years ago. They want to occupy the land and use religion as an excuse to justify the reason for it.

    March 26, 2010 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  9. Mat777

    Jerusalem is not negotiable.

    March 26, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  10. IM

    Stop support Israel financially. They didn't have any territory before WWII, West took it away from arabs and gave it to them. But it is never enough for Israel and their lobby. So, let them be independent of US money.

    March 27, 2010 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
  11. Manir

    I hope Israeli heroes don't bow before King Obama's totalitarianism's steps,

    Don't Jews have a right to live in THEIR homeland before Arab immigrants (called palestinians) have? will hbiased Obama tell the Arab Muslim world what to do? like eliminating their apartheid against Christian & Jews and to stop the genocide campaign on Jews/Israel by: Palestinians, Islamic republic of Iran via Hezbullah thigs or more so by its nuclear plan to wipe off 6,000,000 (Israeli) Jews.

    Isn't this entire conflict about the Arab Muslim bigotry of the "other"?

    Where are we in fighting FOR democracy and FOR freedom against racism and Genocide? we fail in Darfur and in Israel., we listen too much to the powerful Arab-Muslim oil lobby in the UN...

    March 28, 2010 at 2:34 am | Report abuse |
  12. kenan

    I can not believe that some of jews see everything as their rights! stop Guys.. we do not have to obey your fallacies.. israel should obey to international laws.. Zionist policies trigger just hatred and war.. israel must change and become a normal state... wake up! Obama will not support your spoiled policies..

    March 30, 2010 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |