A temporary injunction against demolition work on the Shepherd Hotel in east
Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood was rescinded by the courts on Monday
afternoon – less than 24 hours after it was implemented – allowing bulldozers to
continue demolishing the controversial building.
RELATED:Background: A hotel with a convoluted history
The demolition work,
which began at dawn on Sunday morning, sparked strong denunciations from
international leaders, including the European Union and US Secretary of State
The hotel was built in the 1930s by Jerusalem grand
mufti Hajj Amin al-Husseini, and operated as a hotel from 1967 until 1985, when
it was purchased by California businessman Irving Moskowitz.
also bankrolls other controversial Jewish housing projects in east Jerusalem
neighborhoods, like Silwan and the Old City’s Muslim Quarter.
expressed concern over the initiation of the hotel demolition.
disturbing development undermines peace efforts to achieve the two-state
In particular, this move contradicts the logic of a reasonable
and necessary agreement between the parties on the status of Jerusalem,” she
said in a statement.
“We believe that through good faith negotiations,
the parties should mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of
both parties for Jerusalem, and safeguards its status for people around the
world,” she continued. “Ultimately, the lack of a resolution to this conflict
harms Israel, harms the Palestinians, and harms the US and the international
“The first obvious comment is, there is no peace process in
any case, and the fact that politicians think there is a peace process… is just
absurd,” Ateret Cohanim spokesman Daniel Luria told The Jerusalem Post
Monday. Ateret Cohanim has partnered with the Moskowitz family in supporting
Jewish building projects in predominantly Arab neighborhoods.
to the international criticism over the demolition of the hotel, the Prime
Minister’s Office issued a statement Monday saying the actions were being done
by private citizens in accordance with Israeli law.
government had no connection to the events,” the statement said. “Israel should
not be expected to forbid Jews from buying private property in Jerusalem. There
is no democratic country in the world that would impose this type of restriction
on Jews, and Israel should not be expected to do so.”
According to the
statement, just as Arab residents of Jerusalem can buy and rent properties in
Jerusalem neighborhoods with a Jewish majority, Jews, too, are eligible to buy
and rent properties in neighborhoods with an Arab majority.
of the Husseini family are pursuing two separate court cases to halt further
work on the property. The first court case was filed in February of last year in
the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, and claims that the parcel of land facing the
Mount of Olives road, which leads past the hotel, was incorrectly given absentee
property status. Absentee property status means that in a census immediately
following the Six Day War, the owners of a property were not present, and
therefore the land was transferred to the State of Israel under the Absentee
According to attorney Sami Khoury, who is representing the
Husseini families, the land was owned by Faisal al-Husseini (1940-2001), a
cousin of Hajj Amin al-Husseini and a former Palestinian Authority minister for
Jerusalem affairs, who was a documented Jerusalem resident in
Khoury lost the case in the magistrate’s court about a month ago,
and is now in the process of appealing to the Jerusalem District
The district court has yet to hear the case involving Faisal
al-Husseini’s parcel of land at the entrance of the hotel, but issued a
temporary injunction against work on that part of the complex on Sunday
Though the Shepherd Hotel does not sit on the land in
question, the bulldozers needed to use the area in order to operate.
Monday afternoon, the temporary injunction was canceled, and the two bulldozers
at the scene continued removing the rubble. In the unlikely event that the
Husseini family wins their case, they will be awarded
Khoury plans to file a separate appeal in the Supreme Court
on Tuesday questioning the transaction through which the Shepherd property
transferred from the State Custodian of Absentee Properties to Moskowitz,
without any call for public tenders or additional bids for the property. Khoury
said the files surrounding the transaction had disappeared.
“We do not
have much hope, but we will try to do everything that we can,” said Khoury at a
press conference on Monday in Sheikh Jarrah.
demolitions took place in the east Jerusalem neighborhoods of Silwan and Wadi
Joz on Monday morning. A garage and a storage facility were knocked down in both
neighborhoods, according to Jerusalem City Councillor Meir Margalit, a member of
the opposition Meretz Party.
Small demolitions of uninhabited buildings
are not as controversial as demolitions of houses where families are living,
though Margalit said the number of demolitions in the past few months far
exceeded anything he could remember in the past few years.
seen the [demolitions at the] beginning of the year done with such speed and so
recklessly,” said Margalit.
Usually, he said, the city waits until after
the budget is passed to determine how much money the city can spend on
“I’m very concerned that this is symbolic of what is to
come,” he added.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas met in Ramallah on Monday
with the US consul-general in Jerusalem, Daniel Rubenstein, and complained to him
about the demolition of Shepherd Hotel, a PA official said.
the consul-general that Israel’s policy of settlements remained the major
obstacle to peace, the official said.
PA representatives continued to
express outrage over the demolition of the hotel and accused Israel of
destroying the peace process.
Azzam al-Ahmed, a top Fatah official, said
that Israel had once again proved that it did not want peace.
calling for the resumption of the peace talks, but at the same time, they don’t
want peace,” he said.
Ahmed also praised EU consuls- general who
recommended that their governments recognize east Jerusalem as the capital of a
Palestinian state and consider imposing sanctions on Israel.
ruling Fatah faction said that the position of the consuls-general was a
“practical step that expressed the strong will of the international
This position is a clear message from the EU and the
international community that they reject the policies of Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu, Fatah said in a leaflet.
“Netanyahu is mistaken if he thinks
that the Palestinian people don’t have options and alternatives backed by the
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also issued a
statement on Monday deploring the demolition.
“It is deeply regrettable
that growing international concern at unilateral expansion of illegal Israeli
settlements is not being heeded. Such actions seriously prejudice the
possibility of a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he
Herb Keinon and Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.