What awaits elderly who live at future site of US Embassy?

Knesset committee discusses alternative housing for Diplomat Hotel residents, fails to find solution.

THE FRONT of the US Embassy in Tel Aviv. Will it move to Jerusalem? (photo credit: REUTERS)
THE FRONT of the US Embassy in Tel Aviv. Will it move to Jerusalem?
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The fate of 450 elderly immigrants who live in a hotel that is on property slated to become the site of the new United States Embassy in Jerusalem became the subject of a heated discussion at the Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee on Monday.
The Diplomat Hotel is located next to the US Consulate in the Arnona neighborhood of Jerusalem, which is set to be converted into the US Embassy this May.
The hotel was purchased by the US in 2014. It is currently being leased out as housing for elderly immigrants from the former Soviet Union. But with the building set to become part of the US Embassy in June 2020, the residents will have to move out.
MK Ksenia Svetlova initiated Monday’s discussion on housing options for those who will be forced to leave the hotel.
“There are only two years left to create a practical and fair solution for the 500 elderly who live in the Diplomat Hotel, which was transferred to the US government already in 2014,” she said. “And today we hear again from the Ministry of Immigration that they still have no solutions and are busy negotiating.”
Aliyah and Integration Ministry Director-General Alex Kushner assured participants in the discussion that the issue was being discussed with the municipality, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Foreign Ministry and the US Embassy.
Kushner presented three possible solutions, but Svetlova said at least two of them were not practical. One option was to extend the Diplomat Hotel’s lease and postpone the handover of the property to the US Embassy. However, a Foreign Ministry representative said he did not know of such an option and would be very surprised if the lease would be extended.
Kushner also spoke about the possibility of finding alternative housing in the city, or constructing a new building for the residents. Svetlova lamented in response, “There is no land, no plan, and nothing practical on the ground other than promises.”
She said residents with an average age of 83 had been approaching her, looking for answers.
“We, members of the Knesset, are public emissaries, and our job is to supervise the work of government ministries. And the public comes to us for answers after they do not receive them from the relevant ministries. I will continue to do my work for the public until we all receive a satisfactory answer. The right to a roof over our heads is a basic right. We have lost too much time, but we will not wait any longer. The issue of Diplomat Hotel and its tenants must be solved immediately,” Svetlova insisted.
Committee chairman Avraham Neguise also criticized Kushner for having promised three months ago that he would provide an update on solutions for alternative housing for the immigrants. “We cannot leave them in suspense, worry and fear of what their future will be and where they will be transferred,” Neguise said.
Kushner promised housing in Jerusalem would be provided for all the residents. He said the ministry’s budget for housing
construction for immigrants includes a solution for what he called the “diplomatic” immigrants.
Representatives of the tenants asked that in any alternative housing solution, they remain neighbors, so as not to lose their social and communal cohesion.