The dispute over a highly controversial East Jerusalem Israeli settlement project came to a head Tuesday when direct, public statements from France, Russia, Sweden and Britain joined statements made by the United States demanding that all construction be halted. However, now helping to counter these demands, according to Haaretz, is former presidential hopeful and Arkansas governor, and now Fox News commentator, Mike Huckabee, who will broadcast his weekend show from the disputed site. Haaretz's source is a New York state assemblyman, Dov Hikind, who will also be participating in the "solidarity visit" to support the ongoing construction in Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian neighborhood.
Hikind, who is active in right-wing Jewish causes, told Haaretz that dozens of U.S. activists will participate in the mission, in order to express their support for the project and the man behind it, Irving Moskowitz.
Israeli media outlets reported Sunday that the United States is demanding a halt to the residential project. Later in the day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had been surprised by the U.S. demand and that he refused to "cave in" on the matter.
The disputed site is the the current location of the Shepherd Hotel, in Sheikh Jarrah, which was bought by American tycoon Irving Moskowitz in 1985 and is to be torn down to make way for 20 housing units. Huckabee and his cohorts this weekend will explicitly be taking the side against the Obama administration--which has repeatedly called for any and all settlement activity to cease--and will be filing behind Netanyahu. And as AFP points out:
Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its "eternal, undivided" capital and doesn't consider construction in east Jerusalem to be settlement activity.
The Palestinians want to make the east of the city - home to some 200,000 Jewish Israelis and 268,000 Palestinians--the capital of their future state.
However, despite the brouhaha in Jerusalem, the Guardian reports that 23 settlements elsewhere, in the West Bank, are to be forcibly evacuated by Israeli police. The difference between the two situations, according to the Guardian, is that Israel actually deems the West Bank settlements in question to be illegal, because they lack the the proper permits, while it considers anything within the limits of Jerusalem to be free game. This second position, however, is contrary to international law, which regards all construction on occupied land to be equally inpermissible. According to the Guardian:
The Israeli army later denied receiving any orders for a "lightning evacuation." Settler spokesmen warned of a furious response if any such move took place.
Israel has only twice evacuated Jewish settlements since the 1967 war: in 1981 when the Sinai desert was returned to Egypt, and in 2005, when Israel unilaterally withdrew troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip. Removing settlers from the West Bank will be far more controversial.