Last year I wrote about the proposed illegal settlements in East Jerusalem, funded by wealthy Jewish businessman Irving Moskowitz.
The Jerusalem municipality’s representative on the Jerusalem District Planning and Construction Committee, Yair Gabai, said Wednesday that all committee deliberations over expansion of construction have been frozen following the recent tensions between Israel and the United States over construction in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo.
“Unfortunately, since [U.S. Vice President] Biden’s visit all the committee’s sessions have been put on hold until further notice,” Gabai said.
The Interior Ministry confirmed Gabai’s statements, saying that “the prime minister has deicded to form a committee of chairmen to improve the coordination between the various government offices over all matters relating to construction and building permits.”
Despite this, the Jerusalem municipality has given final approval to a group of settlers to construct 20 apartments in a controversial hotel in east Jerusalem, Haaretz learned on Tuesday.
The announcement comes as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Washington smoothing over ties with the United States over the latest settlement-related tensions, and hours before the premier was to meet with President Barack Obama in Washington.
The Shepherd Hotel in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood was purchased by American Jewish tycoon Irving Moskowitz in 1985 for $1 million.
Moskowitz, an influential supporter of Ateret Cohanim and heightened Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem, plans to tear down the hotel and build housing units for Jewish Israelis in its place.
The local planning council initially approved the plan in July, a move which angered Britain and the United States and prompted them to call on Israel to cancel the plans. The council issued its final approval for the project last Thursday, which now enables the settlers to begin their construction at once.
An existing structure in the area will be town down to make room for the housing units, while the historic Shepherd Hotel will remain intact. A three-story parking structure and an access road will also be constructed on site.