Leftists and residents of the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah held their weekly protest against the entrance of Jewish residents to homes in the Simon the Just compound in the Arab neighborhood on Friday, but this week, they also protested against the construction permit granted to the Shepherd Hotel in the east of the city which has added fuel to the crisis between Israel and the United States.
Some 300 people gathered to protest, including MK Dov Khenin (Hadash), former Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg, and author David Grossman, planned to march from the compound, where they protest every week, to the hotel, under the slogan: "There is nothing holy in an occupied city." A group of some 50 demonstrators had already gathered at the hotel.
"The struggle here, in a certain sense, is not just for the Palestinians' rights, but for the future of us all in this land," Khenin told Ynet. "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sells his bluffs in a different way every time. When it was about Ramat Shlomo, he said this was 'just an approval in principle, not a construction permit,' now of Shepherd Hotel he says, 'The principle approval was granted earlier, the permit is of no significance'. He may be able to lie to the world, but he cannot do this with us."
According to Khenin, this week's protest is of special significance: "It is not just against the expulsion of Palestinian families from the neighborhood, but is also against steps to build a settlement that started at the lower part of the neighborhood, and this week expanded to the Shepherd Hotel in the upper part.
"This is not a technical authorization or a clerical decision. This is a government move to create an Israeli settlement in the heart of a Palestinian neighborhood in east Jerusalem. This is a dangerous move, that works against the possibility of two capitals in Jerusalem – and without this principle we cannot reach a peace agreement."
Burg also commented on this past week's incidents in the neighborhood: "This protest has a different meaning, in the sense of: 'We told you so'. Netanyahu, we told you that the moment of truth can be found in Jerusalem in general and in Sheikh Jarrah in particular. You didn't want to listen to us? So this is what they told you in Washington with disgrace."
According to Burg, the prime minister is now standing at a political crossroads: "The demonstrators here are begging from someone to plant some sense into the prime minister's head and some courage in his heart, so that he may have the strength to make the only decision that is currently possible. If he does not decide, he will drag Israel and the entire Middle East into an endless religious war. If he makes the right decision, which includes dividing Jerusalem and a retreat from all the mad settlements of the past 40 years, he will enter the national pantheon alongside Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin."
Shmulik Grossman contributed to this report