The Israeli prime minister airs a US demand to halt building in E. Jerusalem, where US bingo magnate's hotel is slated for conversion into 20 Jewish apartments.
Tensions between the United States and Israel over settlement expansion in the West Bank escalated this weekend over a tinderbox issue: Israeli building in East Jerusalem, a predominantly Arab area that Israel claims as part of its "undivided and eternal capital."
"I can only imagine what would happen if someone were to suggest that Jews cannot live in certain neighborhoods in New York or in London or in Paris or in Rome," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday, responding to newly clarified US demands to freeze all new building. "There would undoubtedly be a loud international outcry. All the more so, we cannot agree to such a decree in Jerusalem."
At issue is Washington's request to suspend plans to convert an old hotel into 20 Jewish apartments in Sheikh Jarrah – an Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem and one that Palestinians see as part and parcel of their future capital. The Shepherd's Hotel, an empty 1930s-era building, is owned by US bingo magnate Irving Moskowitz, who has purchased other properties in East Jerusalem and the West Bank to settle Jews in areas right-wingers don't want handed over to Palestinian control.
"Netanyahu is keen to lay down some red lines in terms of what, in his point of view, is discussable and what is not," says Jonathan Spryer, a Middle East analyst at the Inter-Disciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel. "He's saying, we can argue on numbers in the West Bank, but as far as Jerusalem goes, your interference is off-limits."