Obama orders Israel to halt Jerusalem hotel project

Sunday, July 19, 2009 |  Israel Today Staff

The Obama Administration has ordered Israel to halt construction of a new Jewish-owned hotel on the eastern side of Jerusalem, Israel's major radio stations reported on Sunday morning.

According to the reports, Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren was summoned to the State Department on Friday, where he was told that the president wants Israel to halt construction of the Shepherd Hotel being built next to the Israel Police headquarters on the eastern side of main road that runs north from Jerusalem's Old City. Two other Israeli luxury hotels already stand near the site.

The direct American pressure came following complaints by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that the hotel was being built on land claimed by his own regime as part of its future capital.

Israeli officials responded by telling radio interviewers that the land is privately owned, and that the Israeli government is not about to start interfering in private business affairs as a result of diplomatic pressure. Nor will Israel give up its right to build wherever its sees fit in Jerusalem.

"Israel has built in Jerusalem and will continue to build in Jerusalem," said one official.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally weighted in on the matter at Sunday's cabinet meeting, insisting that under his government, Israel will never comply with demands that Jews stop buying land and building wherever they please in Jerusalem.

He explained that all of Israel's citizens are free to buy and build where they choose, and that if Israel put the kind of restrictions on Arabs buying land and building homes that Washington is trying to put on Jews, there would be outrage in the international community.

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