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American millionaire quietly buys Jerusalem properties in Arab areas

September 16, 1997

JERUSALEM (AP) _ The Florida millionaire who triggered a crisis by renting to Jews in an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem reportedly has quietly bought other properties in sensitive parts of the city.

Irving Moskowitz, who infuriated Palestinians by allowing Jewish extremists to lease two buildings he owns in Ras al-Amud, has bought hotels, buildings and land in areas where Israeli and Palestinian claims conflict, the Maariv newspaper reported Tuesday.

Moskowitz, a religious Jew who lives in Miami Beach, appears to be concentrating his efforts in east Jerusalem, annexed by Israel after the 1967 Six Day War and claimed by Palestinians as capital of a future state.

Israel says the city never again will be divided and has ringed the Arab part of the city with Jewish neighborhoods. But there are few precedents of Jews moving into an existing Arab neighborhood.

According to Maariv, Moskowitz has bought large tracts of land in the village of Abu Dis, mentioned by some as the possible site of a future Palestinian capital, and has asked the government for permission to build a Jewish neighborhood there.

Moskowitz also has financed homes in the Muslim quarter of the Old City, and owns buildings in Silwan, also an Arab neighborhood in east Jerusalem, the newspaper reported. He also has funded a Jewish seminary in another Arab section.

Maariv also said he bought a defunct Arab hotel in the Sheikh Jarah neighborhood, which he reportedly plans to renovate and reopen, and purchased land and buildings in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Moskowitz visited Jewish settlers living in homes he bought in the Arab neighborhood of Ras al-Amud, signing a guest book: ``The people of Israel build their nation.″

Israel radio reported on Tuesday that Moskowitz had been warned that the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad may be planning to attack him. The radio said Moskowitz is now being protected by bodyguards.

Moskowitz’s last major Jerusalem project _ helping finance a new opening to a tunnel that runs near Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City _ sparked three days of riots that killed 80 Palestinians and Israelis when it opened last year.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supported the tunnel project, but he opposes Moskowitz’s efforts in Ras al-Amud, where three settler families arrived on Sunday. Moskowitz’s wider plan is to build 70 homes for Jews in the middle of the neighborhood of 11,000 Arabs.

To many, it increasingly appears that Moskowitz _ a retired physician who made his fortune from a bingo hall and hospitals in Southern California _ is calling the shots.

``It will be up to Moskowitz and his vision as to what the plan for the area as a whole will be,″ said Yossi Haikin, one of the 11 Israelis who moved into the neighborhood Sunday.

Commentator Nahum Barnea wrote in the Yediot Ahronot daily that Netanyahu ``thought he controlled Moskowitz, but this week discovered that Moskowitz controls him.″

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