JERUSALEM (JTA) — Construction began on a Jewish housing project in an eastern Jerusalem neighborhood.
A construction crew arrived Sunday at the Shepherd Hotel in Sheikh Jarrah to begin drilling as part of engineering testing on the site, according to reports.
Twenty new Jewish homes are set to be built on the site by American Jewish millionaire Irving Moskowitz, who purchased the property in 1985. In 2007, Moskowitz proposed a plan to build 122 apartments on the site; he modified the plan to 20 apartments in 2009.
The construction plan originally was approved in July 2009, contingent on the payment of certain fees. Final approval and a permit for the construction project was granted after the payment of the fees in March, just hours before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Obama at the White House, during which observers have said Obama snubbed Netanyahu.
The construction this week comes just days before Netanyahu is scheduled to again meet with Obama at the White House.
Peace Now said in a statement Sunday that "The mayor of Jerusalem and his partners in the right wing continue to decide the facts on the ground and harm Israel’s political status. Netanyahu must order [Nir] Barkat to stop the construction in Sheikh Jarrah immediately."