Jerusalem: Local officials have given final approval to build 20 apartments for Jewish settlers where a Palestinian hotel once stood in occupied east Jerusalem, Israeli media has reported.
The reports came as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
held talks at the White House with President Barack Obama as
the two sides sought to defuse a two-week row over previous
settlement building plans also in the disputed territory.
Officials approved the project by US millionaire Irving
Moskowitz to build luxury apartments at the site of the former
Hotel Shepherd in east Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah quarter,
Israeli public radio and the Ynet news website reported.
Israeli public radio said the Jerusalem authorities had
given preliminary approval to Moskowitz's project last July,
and last week gave the final go ahead to tear down the Hotel
Shepherd and begin construction of the apartments.
The Peace Now anti-settlement movement denounced the
approval of the 20 new apartments.
"The Jerusalem authorities are leading an independent
policy which has disastrous consequences on the chances of
reaching an agreement with the Palestinians," said Hagit
Ofran, one of the group's directors.
Netanyahu was unable to control the actions of the city
council, she added.
But a Jerusalem city spokesman decried as "provocations"
attempts to use the announcement to damage Netanyahu's visit
to the US.
"Once the construction permits have been paid for they
are automatically issued," the spokesman said on public radio.
Netanyahu has shown no signs of caving in to US demands
to halt the construction of new settler homes in east Jerusalem.
Relations between the two close allies are in the midst
of their worst crisis in years, sparked by Israel's
announcement on March 9 of plans to build 1,600 new settler
homes elsewhere in east Jerusalem just as US Vice President
Joe Biden visited the country.
First Published: Wednesday, March 24, 2010, 14:27