(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
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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.
“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
“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