(Updated below. Shortlink: http://3.ly/dcVE)
22:00: YNET ‘s Ronen Medzini has an explosive expose , just as Netanyahu is in the White House to mend fences over his last week’s Biden blunder. Here is the gist of it:
The construction project in the Shepherd Hotel site in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, had been given the final go-ahead by the Jerusalem municipality, just as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is meeting US President Barack Obama.
The project, which includes 20 flats and a parking lot, was given a general permission by the local housing and planning committee in July 2009, triggering a diplomatic row with the United States. Israeli ambassador Michael Oren was summoned for a reprimand, and the Obama administration made clear it expected all preparation for building works on the site had to cease.
However, the approval at the time was general and subject to various constraints. Last Thursday, the project was given the final go-ahead, an official notice on the Jerusalem Municipality website said. This means works can begin at any time.
Allow me to stress something here: This is not some hytherto anonymous residential ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in East Jerusalem. This is a project Israel had been pointedly warned about by the US just 10 months ago. It seems Netanyahu is not content with presenting Biden with broken glass – he now expects Obama to chew on it, as well.
Update 23:10: English Ynet now have the piece in full.
Update 23:15: Haaretz are on it now. Jpost still lagging.
Update 23:55: Ynet have now put up the actual permission document (Hebrew)
Update 06:20: In this morning’s Haaretz, the Jerusalem municipality is taking potshots at the messenger, claiming “the project was authorised a long time ago, and the final permission was given automatically when the owners paid their municipal fees… publishing this now is a far-Left provocation and an attempted to besmirch the prime minister.” Well, yeah – the project was authorised a while ago – in July 2009, earning Netanyahu a row with Clinton and Obama; and if the owner, Irvin Moskowitz, decided to pay the fees and get the green light just as Netanyahu was patching up the special relationship, the provocation is coming more from the right than from the left, isn’t it? (My guess, though, is that Moskowitz wasn’t trying to set Netanyahu up – he and/or whoever runs the Shepherd project for him just wanted to get all the legalities in chance Netanyahu commits to anything effective after his Washington trip).