Israel denies plans to expand East Jerusalem hotel, but documents prove otherwise
Foreign Ministry says reported plans for construction on Jordanian-owned compound are from 1988 - but Haaretz has obtained blueprints and letter from 2010 that show recent approval for expansion.
Israel has denied that it recently approved expansion plans for a hotel on the Mount of Olives owned by the Jordanian royal family, but documents obtained by Haaretz prove otherwise.
According to a report Haaretz published in Haaretz on Wednesday, the government is planning major construction of the compound, formerly managed by the Intercontinental Hotel chain, which belongs to the Jordanian royal family and was transferred to the Custodian of Absentee Property after the Six-Day War in 1967.
Jordan requested clarifications in the wake the report. Senior figures in Jordan's Foreign Ministry called the Israeli ambassador in Amman, Daniel Nevo, to protest the construction plans, demanding that Israel avoid upsetting the status quo or creating new facts on the ground in East Jerusalem.
After hurried consultations with the Custodian of Absentee Property and city officials in the capital, Foreign Ministry officials in Jerusalem sent a response to Amman in which they claimed that the Haaretz report contained inaccuracies.
According to the response, there are no plans to carry out construction on the Seven Arches Hotel or to change the existing status quo there.
The Foreign Ministry explained to the Jordanians that the hotel's managers want to put up a tent for Christmas pilgrims to the site, which requires a permit from the municipality. The expansion plans for the hotel, the officials explained, are from 1988 and have never been acted upon.
Jerusalem has taken care not to make changes at the site, the article noted, in order to avoid damaging Israel's relationship with the Hashemite Kingdom.
But documents from May 2010 show that the custodian allowed Miloslavsky Architects to begin promoting a significant expansion of the hotel, from 12,000 square meters to more than 20,000, adding 45 rooms in the north wing, 30 rooms in the south wing, a banquet hall and a swimming pool.
Beni Dasa, the hotel's custodian for the custodian general, informed the city's planning department of its decision in writing.