Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday defended the demolition of the Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem the previous day, saying that the Israeli government was not involved in the plan to build residential apartments at the site, Xinhua reported.
"Actions taken at the Shepherd Hotel were conducted by private individuals in accordance with Israeli law. The Israeli government was not involved," said a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office.
The statement clarified that "there should be no expectation that the State of Israel will ban Jews from purchasing private property in Jerusalem. No democratic government would impose such a ban on Jews and Israel will certainly not do so."
"Just as Arab residents of Jerusalem can buy or rent property in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, Jews can buy or rent property in predominantly Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem, " the statement concluded.
The Shepherd Hotel, located in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, was built in the 1930s by then-mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini. In 1985, it was purchased by American businessman Irving Moskowitz, a veteran patron of several Jewish housing projects in the eastern section of the capital. Moskowitz is reportedly planning to build an apartment complex for Israeli families at the site of the hotel, which was in derelict condition for years.
Work at the site, which began late Sunday, drew international condemnation. Egypt and Jordan on Monday cautioned it might lead to an outbreak of violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also condemned the project, saying it undermined ongoing efforts to revive the stalled peace process and expressing America's concern over the move.
"This disturbing development undermines peace efforts to achieve the two-state solution," Clinton said in a statement in Abu Dhabi, where she is on an official visit. "In particular, this move contradicts the logic of a reasonable and necessary agreement between the parties on the status of Jerusalem."