US to Israel: Tel-Aviv hotel development endangers Embassy security, violates Vienna convention
Itamar Eichner and Ofer Petersburg, Yediot, June 13 2010 [page 16; Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]
As if Israel did not have enough tension with the United States, a new front has opened. Recently, the Americans asked the Foreign Ministry to cancel the expansion of a hotel that is located near the US embassy in Tel Aviv, but the Foreign Ministry has announced that it will not act on the matter.
Details of the case reached Yedioth Ahronoth yesterday. Recently, the Americans learned of plans to add floors to the Yamit Hotel, which is located adjacent to the US embassy building on Hayarkon Street in Tel Aviv. This is a large-scale renovation, as part of which the developers intend to connect the Yamit Hotel to the Park Hotel. The unified structure will include fourteen floors, and a shopping center will be added to it. The Planning and Construction Committee in Tel Aviv decided several months ago that the plan would promote the hotel industry on Hayarkon Street.
Following this, the embassy sent an official letter to the Foreign Ministry, asking that the plan be halted because the expansion of the hotel would constitute a security risk. In the letter, the Americans stated that the hotel would be a tall structure that would have a good and close lookout point to the embassy. It also claimed that the expansion of the hotel would interfere with access to the embassy, which is free of obstacles today. The embassy personnel said in the letter that the construction of the hotel violated the Vienna Convention, which obligates countries to provide free access to foreign embassies located in their territory.
The Foreign Ministry held consultations about the request, both in the North American department and the department of diplomatic law headed by Tammy Kaplan. At the end of the consultations the Americans were given an official answer that the Foreign Ministry could not interfere in planning procedures because it is a legal matter. Therefore, the answer said, the embassy should appeal to the planning committee. The Americans were not satisfied with that answer and they are pressuring the Foreign Ministry to oppose the renovations. Meanwhile the contractors asked the Foreign Ministry not to give in to the American pressure.
The city engineer of Tel Aviv, Hezy Berkowitz, says the hotel owners have building rights at the site. He added: “We met the embassy staff and promised to do everything to find a satisfactory solution.” A municipality source said, on the other hand, that the hotel was going to be expanded and that there was no way to prevent implementation of the plan. He said the renovated hotel would only include six to seven stories next to the embassy.
The Foreign Ministry confirmed it had received a request from the Americans about this matter and said there were discussions about it. The American Embassy declined to comment.