Jerusalem Hotel Divides U.S., Israel

Israel has had many a conflict with former US administrations, but in most cases the public only learned of the conflicts after they had been resolved. Former US President Bill Clinton had his problems with both the right-wing Netanyahu and social democrat Ehud Barak. Netanyahu suffered from a "lack of judgment," White House officials said at the time. And in commenting on Barak and the failed negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis in the summer of 2000, Clinton writes in his memoir: "I was, to put it mildly, disappointed." Barak, he writes, was playing for time.

Right-wing governments have not been the only ones to support settlement construction, which Prime Minister Barak also promoted. It is only now, under Netanyahu, a good friend of businessman Moskowitz, that the settlements are becoming a bone of contention, and a symbol of estrangement between the United States and Israel. The difference between yesterday and today, says former Sharon advisor Weissglas, is that now the reliable ties between Washington and Jerusalem have been severed. Weissglass says that Sharon had several telephone conversations every week with the White House and the State Department. By contrast, Netanyahu, reportedly has no direct line to President Obama.

Because of all of this, a run-down building like the Shepherd Hotel can suddenly acquire political significance. The new construction would benefit the Ateret Cohanim ("Crown of the Temple Priests") group of settlers, a radical Zionist group that has been buying houses in the Arab sections of the Old City and distributing them to Jews. Because the Netanyahu administration supports the effort, nothing stands in the way of conversion of the Shepherd Hotel into new apartments for Jewish settlers.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan.

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