Shepherd Hotel project funder is key Ros-Lehtinen donor

Florida businessman Irving Moskowitz creates stir in Washington as plans for Jewish housing units over demolished hotel moves forward.

east Jerusalem demolition 311 AP (photo credit: AP)
east Jerusalem demolition 311 AP
(photo credit: AP)
WASHINGTON – Irving Moskowitz helped spark the ire of the State Department this week as his project to raze the Shepherd Hotel in east Jerusalem to build Jewish housing units went forward.
But not all corners of Washington are on the outs with Moskowitz. The wealthy Florida businessman is also a heavy contributor to the new House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, underscoring the very different positions on Middle East policy of the Obama administration and many GOP members who ascended to House leadership posts in Congress.
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Moskowitz and his wife of more than 58 years, Cherna, have contributed $20,200 to the Florida congresswoman since 2006, according to Federal Election Commission filings first reported by Politico.
The maximum permissible individual campaign contribution per election is $2,400, according to the FEC’s website.
Neither Moskowitz nor Ros- Lehtinen could be reached for comment before presstime. Ros-Lehtinen is in Haiti on her first trip overseas since become Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman this month.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized the demolition of the property, built by the former mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, in the 1930s, after bulldozers went to work on the Sheikh Jarrah structure on Sunday.
“This disturbing development undermines peace efforts to achieve the two state-solution. In particular, this move contradicts the logic of a reasonable and necessary agreement between the parties on the status of Jerusalem,” Clinton said, in a statement released by the State Department. “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.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office defended the move, putting out a statement saying that it was conducted “by private individuals in accordance with Israeli law” and that the government was not involved. There should be no expectation that the State of Israel will impose a ban on Jews purchasing private property in Jerusalem. No democratic government would impose such a ban on Jews and Israel will certainly not do so,” a PMO statement read. “Just as Arab residents of Jerusalem can buy or rent property in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, Jews can buy or rent property in predominantly Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem.”
Differences between Israel and the United States have been increasingly evident ever since Netanyahu declined to renew a temporary settlement freeze this fall that ended three weeks after peace talks re-started, prompting the Palestinians to walk out again.
During the administration of Democratic president Bill Clinton, when Netanyahu was serving his first term as prime minister, he tried to increase his political maneuverability by appealing to the Republicans controlling Congress, with whom he had close ties. Middle East hands are watching carefully to see to what extent Netanyahu again employs this strategy.