Inaugurating East Jerusalem Jewish Enclave, Knesset Speaker Slams Obama

Reuven Rivlin condemns those that seek to 'cut up' Jerusalem, as bringing 'disaster' onto the city and its residents.

One day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Jerusalem will not be divided, the speaker of the Knesset and several other government ministers attended a dedication ceremony for Ma'aleh Zeitim, a Jewish enclave in East Jerusalem's Arab neighborhood of Ras al Amud.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, Interior Minister Eli Yishai, and Information Minister Daniel Hershkovitz all participated in the ceremony - this, despite the fact that the Jewish neighborhood has already been inhabited for several years.

Ma’aleh Zeitim
Olivier Fitoussi

A group of dozens of left-wing activists gathered outside the site of the ceremony, shouting "Jews and Arabs against Ma'aleh Zeitim" and "There is no shame in the holy city."

Rivlin delivered a speech at the ceremony, where he issued a warning based on the recent Mideast policy speech of U.S. President Barack Obama.

"Until today, despite a difference of opinions, there were relations between Israel and the U.S. based on mutual interests, shared democratic values, and recognition of the right of the Jewish people in their country," Rivlin said. "But this time, I hear another note from the U.S. president - that Israel doesn't need to be strict on the conditions that will protect her existence, that the U.S. will be responsible for [Israel's] security and existence. And what happens if one day there is a president that thinks that Israel's existence contradicts Americans' interests?"

Rivlin condemned those that seek to "cut up" Jerusalem, as bringing "disaster" onto the city and its residents.

The comments come in the wake of Obama's call for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians based on the 1967 borders, which Netanyahu calls "indefensible".

The ceremony at Ma'aleh Zeitim was sponsored by the neighborhood committee, Yeshivat Ateret Cohanim, MKs in the Knesset's Jerusalem caucus and Florida-based businessman Irving Moskowitz, who purchased the land for the controversial neighborhood.

Moskowitz bought the lots from two yeshivas which in turn purchased the land more than a century ago. The High Court of Justice rejected petitions by Palestinians who claimed ownership of the land.

Work on the site began in the late 1990s. Ma'aleh Zeitim is projected to house 110 families; many already live there. An adjacent neighborhood, Ma'aleh David, still in the planning stages, would add an additional 90 homes to the area, making the combined area the largest Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem.