East Jerusalem homes dedication 'provocative'

Israeli right-wing politicians defiantly dedicated new Jewish homes in the heart of Arab-dominated East Jerusalem yesterday, less than a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed in a much-hyped speech that he would never divide Jerusalem.

Organisers of the event said the timing was coincidental, but it will raise eyebrows in Washington, coming as it does just days after US President Barack Obama riled Israeli officials by calling for a future Palestinian state to be based on the pre-1967 borders.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have foundered over the contentious issue of Jewish settlement expansion on occupied territory, and Israel has firmly defied international pressure to curb construction in East Jerusalem, which it occupied and later annexed after the 1967 Six-Day War.

An Israeli politician denounced the dedication ceremony as a “provocation” and suggested that the timing was deliberate, aimed at sending an uncompromising message to the Palestinians, who covet East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

“Why now? They couldn’t wait for one more week? This is not a casual move,” said Meir Margilit, a councillor in Jerusalem’s municipality who claimed that the date of the ceremony had been coordinated with the prime minister’s office. “Mr Netanyahu is sending a message to the right-wing and to the Palestinians: ‘Nothing will stop us from building in Jerusalem and the West Bank’.”

It was not clear if Mr Netanyahu was aware of the event or not. The PM’s office declined to comment.

Among those attending the ceremony was Nir Barkat, Jerusalem’s hawkish mayor, and Eli Yishai, Israel’s interior minister, both enthusiastic proponents of Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem.

Inside the heavily-guarded compound, settlers revelled to folk music inside as protesters on the street outside chanted and held aloft banners, denouncing settlements as an “obstacle to peace.”

The ceremony marked the completion of the 60-home second phase of a Jewish housing project in Ras-al-Amud, a bustling Arab neighbourhood at the foot of the Mount of Olives, bringing the number of completed houses in the compound up to 110. The land for the settlement was purchased by Irving Moskowitz, a Florida-based Jewish financier, who has bankrolled many such projects in East Jerusalem.

The organisers of the ceremony said they were unconcerned about international opposition, declaring that they were following 'God’s roadmap'.

“The Jews have the right to live in the heart of Jerusalem,” said Daniel Luria, a director of Ateret Cohanim, a group dedicated to “redeeming” Jewish property in the Arab sector. “We are the indigenous people.”

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed last September over the issue of settlements after Mr Netanyahu refused to extend a 10-month construction freeze in the West Bank.

He was expected to reveal in a much-anticipated speech on Tuesday new parameters for a peace deal, but instead blamed the Palestinians for the impasse and laid down conditions that the Palestinians will find hard to meet.

Although it met with swift condemnation from the Palestinians, who said it placed more obstacles in the path of peace, it was received well by all but the most nationalist elements of his right-wing coalition, as he ruled out any compromises on Israel’s security and reiterated his commitment to keeping Israel’s larger settlement blocs in the West Bank.

But he also made a concession to the Palestinians by saying that some settlements in the West Bank would end up outside Israel’s borders, prompting criticism from far-right politicians, who accused him of giving land away.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Twelve of the winning bidders will each host three group matches
football
Life and Style
Jack Cooksey goes for the grand unveiling - moments before dropping his new iPhone 6 on the floor
iphone launch
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Supply Teacher - Loughborough

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Are you a Teacher looking fo...

Primary General Cover Teachers

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leicester: Are you a Newly Qualified Teacher lo...

Part Time Primary Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Part Time Primary TeacherOur...

Science Technician

£7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: The Job:School Science Technici...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week