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Old 20-07-2009, 10:59 AM   #22
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Israel rejects US demand to halt east Jerusalem project

Published: Sunday July 19, 2009

Israel on Sunday rejected a United States demand to stop a building project in annexed east Jerusalem, in the latest dispute between the close allies over the prickly issue of Jewish settlements.

Referring to the project in east Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the government would not place restrictions on Jewish residents in a city that the state considers to be its capital.

"We cannot accept the idea that Jews will not have the right to live or to build anywhere in east Jerusalem. We cannot accept such restrictions," Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.

"Unified Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people and the state of Israel. Our sovereignty over it is unquestionable," he said, adding that Palestinian residents could buy houses throughout the city.

Israel's ambassador in Washington, Michael Oren, was summoned to the State Department at the end of last week and was told the project, which aims to build homes on the site of the former Shepherd Hotel, should be halted, an Israeli official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

There was no immediate US comment on the report.

Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP that "there is no middle solution on the issue of settlements. Israel must stop them immediately, both in the West Bank and Jerusalem."

The project is on a site known to Palestinians as Karm Al-Mufti, which had once belonged to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Amin al-Husseini, and in 1985 was bought by American millionaire Irving Moskowitz.

According to Israeli media, Moskowitz has previously financed settlement projects in east Jerusalem and in the occupied West Bank.

The Sheikh Jarrah project, located near Israeli government buildings and the British and US consulates in east Jerusalem, received a building permit from city hall three months ago, said the Maariv daily.

In a statement, the municipality said "the acquisition of the land that includes the Shepherd Hotel was legal... according to the High Court of Israel, Jews, Muslims and Christians alike can purchase land in all parts of the city of Jerusalem."

The international community considers Jewish neighbourhoods in mostly Arab east Jerusalem to be Israeli settlements, and the issue is one of the main obstacles in the hobbled Middle East peace process.

Israel captured east Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed that part of the city in a move not recognised by the international community.

It sees all of Jerusalem as its "eternal, undivided" capital and does not consider construction in east Jerusalem to be settlements.

The Palestinians want to make the east of the city the capital of their promised state, and vigorously oppose all settlement construction in east Jerusalem, home to some 200,000 Jewish Israelis and 268,000 Palestinians.

Under US President Barack Obama, Washington has repeatedly pressed Israel to stop all settlement activity, something that Netanyahu has so far rejected.

The Palestinians have refused to restart peace negotiations with the Israelis unless all settlement activity ends.

Memo to President Obama: what did I tell you, Mr. President?!?

Netanyahu has decided that his response to the request to halt this settlement is going to be to spit in your face, and tell you it's raining.

Of course, no matter how intently you're spat upon, you'll never stop sending those checks to Israel, right?!?

No matter how deeply Israel is publicly humiliating you and your administration, you'll just keep on sending those checks, and continuing to validate bad behavior on the part of the Israeli administration, right?!?

And what is wrong with this picture, Mr. President?!?

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Australians For Palestine.(Providing a Voice.)
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