Israel’s War Against Palestine: Documenting the Military Occupation of Palestinian and Arab Lands

UK envoys: “The Israelis don’t listen to us”

20 July 2009

By Nir Hasson Haaretz – 20 July 2009

British diplomats touring the Shepherd Hotel recently in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah expressed concern about Israeli construction plans there, particularly in light of the site’s close proximity to the British consulate in East Jerusalem.

The tour, which also included American diplomats, was led by Jerusalem city councilman Meir Margalit of Meretz, who is also active in the Committee Against House Demolitions. During the visit, Margalit said, the British diplomats asked their American colleagues to pressure Israel on the issue and take the lead in applying international pressure to stop settlement building.

“The British said explicitly – the Israelis don’t pay attention to us, but if you apply pressure, there is a chance,” Margalit recounted. The U.K. envoys also expressed concern that construction activity so close to the consulate could lead to an intelligence leak.

The area was acquired in 1985 by American Jewish philantrhopist Irving Moskowitz and designated for private housing. Two weeks ago, the local planning council approved the construction plan, which calls for the erection of two residential buildings of 20 housing units stretched over a 3,000-square-meter area.

The council recognized the hotel building – which in the 1930s and 40s served as the compound for the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini – as a historic site and designated it for renovation.

Eitan Geva, the Israeli legal representative of Moskowitz, said he was surprised by U.S. opposition to the project, which he characterized as “commercial,” and not “ideological.”

The Jerusalem municipality commented: “The district planning committee is working according to equitable criteria, and grants building permits to both Jews and Arabs, without regard to the religion, race or nationality of the recipient. The acquisition of property is conducted according to law, and the site has been granted the necessary authorizations.”

Sarah Kreimer, associate director of Ir Amim, an Israeli non-profit organization engaged in issues affecting Israeli-Palestinian relations in Jerusalem, said yesterday, “All of these small developments constitute a sequence, the goal of which is to encircle the Old City from every direction – Sheikh Jarrah, Wadi Joz, the Mount of Olives, Ras al-Amud, Silwan and the Armon Hanatziv promenade,” she said.

“In each of these places, plans are being advanced for construction whose ultimate purpose is to disconnect the Old City from Palestinian Jerusalem,” she said.

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