Co-Authored by Lara Friedman.
The anticipation is finally over: this morning, three bulldozers arrived at the site of the Shepherds Hotel in the heart of Sheikh Jarrah. There they began the task of demolishing the now iconic building at the site, making way for a major new Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem. The new settlement, backed by American settler financier Irving Moskowitz, will be the first settlement construction in Sheikh Jarrah since 1967. As of this writing the demolition is focused on only the northern half of the building. It is unknown if the plan is to ultimately demolish the whole building or preserve part of the structure.
The demolition of the hotel and the construction of a settlement in the heart of the Palestinian neighborhood, is another obstacle to a compromise in Jerusalem and a two states solution.
As people who follow Jerusalem settlement issues will recall, the Shepherds Hotel settlement project was granted final approval in July 2009 – at the height of U.S. efforts to press Israel to adopt a settlement freeze in order to get the peace process going. The timing of that approval represented a direct challenge to U.S. efforts to make progress on Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Then, on March 23, 2010, hours before Prime Minister Netanyahu met with President Obama in Washington, final permits were issued to the settlers. With these permits in hand, and barring extraordinary intervention by the Netanyahu government, the settlers could begin work – demolition and construction – at any time of their choosing.
They chose today.
Map of Sheik Jarrah – Click Here