July 23, 2009

The Shepherd Hotel (AP)

The Jerusalem municipality recently approved plans by a Jewish-American businessman, Irving Moskowitz, to build 20 apartments in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem. The construction has ignited a debate over Israeli construction in East Jerusalem. On Monday, the State Department said that neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians should do anything to prejudge the outcome on permanent status issues, including Jerusalem.

Below are several analysis pieces about the debate over the construction in Sheikh Jarrah and the larger issue of Jerusalem as a final status issue, including a recent Middle East Bulletin interview with Ambassador Michael Bell about solving the problem of the Old City. (UPDATED)

Bibi’s Gambit on Jerusalem Seen Aimed at U.S. Jews
by James D. Besser (The Jewish Week)

This week’s U.S.-Israel diplomatic dustup over building additional Jewish housing in east Jerusalem may have as much to do with domestic politics in the Jewish state—and a desire to mobilize American Jews to oppose additional U.S. pressure—as with any shift in Obama administration policy.

Publicly raising its disagreement over Jerusalem may “focus the American Jewish community, which is mostly opposed to settlements, on the fact that when the U.S. demands Israel cease building settlements that includes Jerusalem,” said Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman. Access the full article>>

“Abusing Jerusalem to Assail Peace: the Case of the Shepherd’s Hotel”
by Lara Friedman and Daniel Seidemann (Americans for Peace Now: Settlements in Focus)

Moskowitz has been trying to develop the Shepherd’s Hotel site for years, but the project has been stalled—until now—in all likelihood because it was viewed as politically reckless and irresponsible. Moreover, when it has been raised in the past—including several times under the Bush Administration—the U.S. and the UK expressed strong opposition and the plan was put aside. Indeed, the Jerusalem Municipality has over the last two years periodically promised the international community that it would refrain from expediting the plan in order to allow international stakeholders to weigh in and to ensure that the interested parties were not taken by surprise.

Most Arabs Can’t Buy Most Homes in West Jerusalem
by Nir Hasson (Haaretz)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed this week that Jerusalem is an "open city" that permits all its inhabitants, Jewish and Palestinian, to purchase homes in both its eastern and western parts. … An examination by Haaretz, however, presented a rather different situation on the ground. According to Israel Lands Administration rules, residents of East Jerusalem cannot take ownership of the vast majority of Jerusalem homes. Access the full article>>

Bingo Mogul Key Figure in Latest U.S.-Israel Spat
by Amy Teibel (The Associated Press)

A Jewish-American bingo mogul with a penchant for buying up land in politically explosive areas of Jerusalem is the key figure in the latest dispute between Israel and the United States. … The land, it turns out, belongs to Irving Moskowitz, an observant Jew with deep pockets and a hand that has generously doled out funds to settlers determined to cement Israel’s hold on disputed areas of the holy city. Access the full article>>

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