Israel rejects criticism of East Jerusalem demolition
Israel on Monday rejected international criticism of the demolition of part of an historic hotel in East Jerusalem, saying it was in line with the rights of Jews to buy and develop private property, DPA reported.
After years of preparations and international efforts to stop the project, Israeli contractors on Sunday demolished part of the Shepherd Hotel in the heart of the Arab East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
The property was bought in 1985 by a Jewish American businessman who wants to build two residential buildings with some 20 homes on the site, along with an ultra-nationalist Jewish organization, Ateret Cohanim.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office issued a statement Monday, clarifying the project was a private, not a government one.
"Actions undertaken yesterday (Sunday), 9.1.11, at the Shepherd Hotel were conducted by private individuals in accordance with Israeli law. The Israeli government was not involved," said the statement.
"There should be no expectation that the State of Israel will impose a ban on Jews purchasing private property in Jerusalem. No democratic government would impose such a ban on Jews and Israel will certainly not do so," it insisted.
"Just as Arab residents of Jerusalem can buy or rent property in predominantly Jewish neighbourhoods in Jerusalem, Jews can buy or rent property in predominantly Arab neighbourhoods in Jerusalem."
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday the US was "very concerned" about the preparations for the Jewish apartment complex in the heart of Arab East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of their future state.
In a statement, she said the move contradicted "the logic of a reasonable and necessary agreement" between Israel and the Palestinians on the status of Jerusalem.
"This disturbing development undermines peace efforts to achieve the two state-solution," she said.
The European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, reminded Israel that building settlements on occupied Palestinian territory was illegal.
"I reiterate that settlements are illegal under international law, undermine trust between the parties and constitute an obstacle to peace," Ashton added.
Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said the demolition ran "counter to international law" and urged "immediate" action by the world community to stop the moves.
He said the demolition sought to "impose new realities on the ground," would derail efforts to resume the deadlocked peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians and "create a state of instability in the Palestinian territories."
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, too, slammed the move as a bid to "colonize" East Jerusalem and urged the international community to intervene.
The Palestinians broke off short-lived US-sponsored direct peace talks with Israel in late September after the Israeli government failed to extend a moratorium on Israeli construction in the occupied West Bank.
Clinton noted that the lack of peace in the Mideast "harms Israel, harms the Palestinians, and harms the US and the international community."
"We will continue to press ahead with the parties to resolve the core issues, including Jerusalem, in the context of a peace agreement," she said in the statement.