MKs critical of Obama’s statements on building in capital

"The first question should be not what happens in Jerusalem, but what happens in Gaza," says Kadima’s Avi Dichter.

November 10, 2010 20:50
3 minute read.
Likud MK Danny Danon

58_Danny Danon. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

MKs from Israel’s largest parties were quick to respond Wednesday to US President Barack Obama’s statements a day earlier, in which he criticized building plans in the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Har Homa and Pisgat Ze’ev.

But while MKs agreed that US-Israel relations were again on shaky ground, Kadima and Likud MKs were divided as to where to place the blame for the renewed tension.

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“President Obama proves time and time again the extent to which he is cut off from all reality in the Middle East. During his visit to China, he attacked our building in Gilo, and yesterday, in Jakarta, he attacked the building in Pisgat Ze’ev and Har Homa,” complained MK Danny Danon (Likud).

“I invite Obama to include Jerusalem in one of his trips, and maybe when he gets here, he’ll understand the Jewish people’s eternal connection to the city. It is sad to see that his statements before the election are the opposite of the White House’s behavior today,” he said.

“But one thing can be said in his favor: through his statements, he unites all parts of the Israeli public behind the prime minister when Netanyahu defends our right to build in Jerusalem.”

MK Ophir Akunis (Likud), head of the coalition’s response team, echoed Danon’s sentiments, asserting that “the American pressure only strengthens the broad consensus regarding Jerusalem’s inseparability.

“It is unfortunate that Obama has chosen to push the wrong side. He should not seek conflict with Israel, which wants to renew the talks, but with those who stopped the negotiations, the Palestinians.”

Despite denials from within Likud that the announcement regarding the building in the two neighborhoods, both of which are located beyond the capital city’s 1967 borders, had anything to do with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit to the United States, Kadima MK Nachman Shai argued that the timing of the announcement seemed impolitic.

“A bad spirit is blowing in the relations between Israel and the United States,” warned Shai. “Netanyahu chose the incorrect time and place to try to stretch the rope in relations between the two states.

“Instead of a quiet and harmonious dialogue that will allow both the continuation of building and the renewal of negotiations, the prime minister has chosen public and vocal conflict with the United States.”

Shai’s fellow Kadima MK Avi Dichter argued that “the Americans understand the map of Jerusalem, and they understand that there is no chance that Jerusalem will return to the 1967 borders. They also aren’t blind – they know where the municipal borders are drawn, and they also know where our security borders are around the city.”

“But they still don’t know – or don’t understand – that the most sensitive part of the negotiations is Jerusalem. To begin by addressing the most sensitive issue, without establishing any level of trust, is a recipe for failure,” Dichter continued.

“The first place to build Israeli trust in the PA was in Gaza, and the first question should be not what happens in Jerusalem, but what happens in Gaza – how we make sure that there is one, and not two Palestinian states,” Dichter said.

“After that come the security issues in the West Bank, in which Israel has taken great steps to help the Palestinians establish security there. But to deal with Jerusalem at the beginning of negotiations is a recipe for failure.”

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