I was more saddened than angered when I learned that the North American Board of
Trustees of the Union for Reform Judaism had condemned Israel’s plans for
construction in Jerusalem and the E1 area, because it highlights Israel’s
failure to adequately explain our position even to American Jews.
Jews at grassroots level better informed of the facts, no Jewish leadership
group would have dared to adopt such an approach.
Former prime minister
Ehud Olmert’s false and outrageous outbursts in the US, even stooping to
accusing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of initiating this move solely to
humiliate President Barack Obama, undoubtedly contributed to this in no small
measure. Olmert was supported by the far Left former American Jewish ambassador
to Israel Dan Kurtzer, who dismissed the Israeli initiative as a crude effort to
garner votes in the forthcoming elections.
I would wager that the vast
majority of American Reform Jews are unaware that the ongoing hysterical
condemnation of Israel over settlements relates to no more than two percent of
the territories. Or that much of the housing construction planned is merely
catering to natural population growth of existing settlements. Or that the
construction currently being condemned is limited either to suburbs of Jerusalem
or within the framework of the agreed settlement blocs that every peace plan
assumes will remain within the borders of the Jewish state.
The E1 area
comprises 12 square kilometers and is adjacent to Ma’ale Adumim, a city
inhabited by 40,000 Jewish residents located just four miles from Jerusalem.
That this city will remain within the boundaries of Israel was reaffirmed by
every political leader including Yitzhak Rabin (who at the outset of the Oslo
accords even provided the mayor of Ma’ale Adumim with annexation documents for
E1), Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, Yossi Beilin (the architect of the Oslo accords),
Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni. In the course of the Camp David Accords, president
Clinton also endorsed the area as being within the future boundaries of
As a quid pro quo to prime minister Sharon’s 2004 unilateral
withdrawal from Gaza, the Bush administration agreed that taking into account
demographic changes, areas encompassing the major settlement blocs would be
retained by Israel. However, this was indirectly challenged by President Obama
in his May 2011 speech which called for the 1967 borders plus swaps as a
starting point for negotiations.
But anyone seriously involved in Middle
East affairs understands that these areas can never be separated from the Jewish
The Palestinians and other international critics falsely insist
that by adopting this path, Israel would deny contiguity to a Palestinian state.
This is untrue. The government has provided for a bypass road to be accessible
at all times, guaranteeing Palestinians right of passage throughout the
For over 10 years, Israel deferred to international requests to
delay construction in the area in order to appease the Palestinians. But even
after Netanyahu’s unprecedented and unconditional 10-month settlement freeze,
the Palestinian Authority still refused to negotiate with Israel. Instead, PA
chair Mahmoud Abbas continued to incite hatred against Israel, even denying any
Jewish connection to Jerusalem. After he defiantly abrogated the Oslo accords by
promoting UN recognition, the Israeli government felt that it had waited long
enough and decided to proceed with the long-delayed construction in this
In the particularly volatile and hostile environment which
surrounds us, one might question the wisdom of the government making needlessly
provocative proclamations about these issues rather than proceeding quietly and
dispensing with such strident advance announcements. And the issue should be
presented as reflecting Israel’s legitimate national interests and in no way an
obstacle to establishing a Palestinian state. It is certainly wrong and conveys
a false message if portrayed as a punishment for the misbehavior of the
BUT IT would probably not have made the slightest difference. Most of
the international community, especially the Europeans, were relieved to distance
themselves from the supportive role they were recently obliged to assume toward
Israel by endorsing its right of self-defense in the face of Hamas rocket
attacks. Even then, many remained critical, accusing Israel of employing
excessive force and failing to respond proportionately.
They were also
visibly overjoyed to draw closer to our “moderate peace partner” the corrupt
Mahmoud Abbas, who at the UN received standing ovations from virtually the
entire gathering after delivering a speech replete with lies and hatred designed
to demonize us.
The hysterical condemnation of the Jewish state for
approving home construction in an area adjacent to its capital, on barren,
uninhabited land which neither displaced Palestinians nor altered the demography
of the region, is bizarre. No distinction is made between housing construction
in outlying settlements – which the government has restricted – and the major
settlement blocs which will unquestionably remain within the boundaries of
Double standards are shamelessly applied. Nobody takes into
account that two successive Israeli prime ministers effectively offered the
Palestinians over 95% of the disputed territories but were rejected.
Quartet undertook to guarantee implementation of the Oslo accords, yet aside
from the United States, all its members abandoned Israel by abstaining or voting
in favor of the PA abrogation. In so doing they repudiated UN Security Council
resolution 242 and actually rewarded the PA for materially breaching its
During the Gaza conflict the Western powers called
continuously on Israel to act proportionately.
But there was no such
proportionality in relation to their condemnation of Israel over the
construction issue. No indignation was expressed during the years when missiles
were launched against our civilians.
No criticisms were voiced against
the PA and Hamas for inciting against Israel or of their sanctification of
“martyrs” who murdered Israeli women and children.
No country condemned
Abbas – who accuses Israel of “ethnic cleansing” – for proclaiming that not a
single Jew will be permitted to live in a Palestinian state. The international
community responded with a greater uproar against Israel home construction than
to the ongoing, obscene atrocities committed by both parties in the Syrian civil
Little was said when North Korea breached its undertakings and
renewed the testing of international missiles. When Egyptian President Mohamed
Morsi sought to impose dictatorial rule in his country, there was barely a
murmur of protest. Surely the application of such double standards by the
international community toward Israel amounts to ignorance, hypocrisy, double
standards or a combination thereof.
With the existential threat looming
from Iran’s efforts to obtain a nuclear bomb, there is indeed a desperate need
for us to reverse the tide flowing against us in the war of ideas, gain support
internationally and strengthen our standing with our most important ally, the
However, Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim and the major
adjacent settlement blocs will remain part of Israel and this is one issue
concerning which we must remain steadfast. And we cannot be expected to freeze
construction indefinitely because the Palestinian Authority leaders refuse to
negotiate while they proclaim a willingness to unite with the genocidal Hamas,
whose leader Khaled Mashaal only a few days ago again publicly reiterated his
pledge to wipe away the Jewish state through military action.
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