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East Jerusalem: A tale of two neighborhoods

By Paula Hancocks, CNN
  • Israeli East Jerusalem settlements have prompted international condemnation
  • Israelis see big differences between two settlements in East Jerusalem
  • Intricacies of dispute highlight tough job facing negotiators for long term peace in Middle East

Jerusalem (CNN) -- With the Israeli approval of further Jewish home building in East Jerusalem comes fresh condemnation.

In response to the most recent development, the final go-ahead for 20 units at the Shepherd hotel in East Jerusalem, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said: "settlements are illegal under international law. This must stop."

Just two weeks ago, news of the approval of 1,600 units in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo during a visit to Israel by U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden was condemned as "insulting" by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

For the U.N., the U.S. and much of the world, the two cases are the same. Both settlements are being built on land annexed by Israel during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and the fate of both is likely to be a key element in any final peace negotiations. The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, and have called for an end to Israeli expansion before the resumption of talks.

But to most Israelis the differences between the two East Jerusalem areas are vast.

Video: East Jerusalem troubles

While right-wing Jews dream of the predominantly Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where the Shepherd Hotel is situated, becoming Jewish, Left wing Israelis join Palestinians and international activists every Friday to protest the removal of Palestinians -- two families, a total of 54 people, have recently been evicted under court order -- from this area to make way for Jews. The court ruling the property originally belonged to Jews.

As for Ramat Shlomo, an exclusively Jewish and ultra-orthodox area of East Jerusalem, few Israelis consider that a settlement. When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells the world there are some neighborhoods in East Jerusalem which will always be part of Israel he is referring to this area among others.

Jack Kiel, an ultra-orthodox resident of Ramat Shlomo, says of the new appartments recently approved: "This is an integral part of Jerusalem and there's no question in my mind that the additional appartments will be built here."

This distinction means little to the Palestinians, the United Nations and others who view occupied land as just that, occupied land. An indication of how difficult it will be when it comes to final status negotiations and whether talks can survive an attempt by Israel and the Palestinians to carve up the holy city.