(AFP) -- Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday defended the controversial demolition of a historic Palestinian hotel in east Jerusalem to build new homes for Jewish settlers.
"Actions undertaken yesterday at the Shepherd Hotel were conducted by private individuals in accordance with Israeli law," the premier said in a statement, referring to a building in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood which was built in the 1930s.
"Actions undertaken yesterday (Sunday), 9.1.11, at the Shepherd Hotel were conducted by private individuals in accordance with Israeli law. The Israeli government was not involved.
There should be no expectation that the State of Israel will impose a ban on Jews purchasing private property in Jerusalem. No democratic government would impose such a ban on Jews and Israel will certainly not do so.
Just as Arab residents of Jerusalem can buy or rent property in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, Jews can buy or rent property in predominantly Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the demolition a “disturbing development,” while Catherine Ashton, the foreign policy chief of the EU, repeated her oft-stated stand that ”settlements are illegal under international law, undermine trust between the parties and constitute an obstacle to peace."
"Calling Jerusalem a settlement is a misinterpretation, an insult to the history of the city," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told the French news agency AFP. "It is incomprehensible that they are mixing questions of private rights, international law and politics," he added.