Building blocks

Was Netanyahu right to criticize the White House’s position on the proposed building in Givat Hamatos and the purchase of homes in Silwan or was the prime minister out of line with his statements?

October 9, 2014 23:05
2 minute read.
East Jerusalem's Silwan neighborhood

East Jerusalem's Silwan neighborhood. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)


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The only people I know from Short Hills, New Jersey, are Jewish.

As the New York/New Jersey area has the highest concentration of Jews anywhere in the world outside of Israel this is not terribly surprising.

What you might find surprising is that if we were discussing Short Hills, say 60 years ago, there is a good chance there would have been no Jews in the town to talk about because Short Hills did not permit Jews to live within its town limits.

According to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Jews today face a similar restriction, though not in America but in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.

In an interview telecast last Sunday on CBS’s Face the Nation, Netanyahu responded to the Obama administration’s harsh criticism of Jews buying homes from Arabs in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan and the green-lighted development of more than 2,400 housing units in the Givat Hamatos section of the capital.

The international community, including the United States, does not approve of either move and considers the purchase of homes in predominantly Arab areas and Jewish construction in certain areas in Jerusalem to be provocative and, in some cases, illegal under international law.

The Obama administration went so far as to warn Israel that the project in Givat Hamatos could possibly distance Israel from “even its closest allies” while raising questions about Israel’s commitment to seeking peace with Palestinians.

The irony is that Givat Hamatos is well within any definition of Jerusalem’s boundaries, closer to the city center than numerous other Jerusalem neighborhoods, none of which draws international attention when being developed. As the prime minister noted, the Givat Hamatos site is about three minutes from his office.

During the interview on Face the Nation, Netanyahu rejected restrictions on where Jews could live, and said that Jerusalem’s Arabs and Jews should be able to buy homes wherever they want.

“Baffled” by the American condemnation, the prime minister said, “It’s against the American values. And it doesn’t bode well for peace,” he said. “The idea that we’d have this ethnic purification as a condition for peace, I think it’s anti-peace.”

Netanyahu went so far as to call the administration’s criticism of the purchases in Silwan and the planned building in Givat Hamatos “un-American.”

Was Netanyahu right to criticize the White House’s position on the proposed building in Givat Hamatos and the purchase of homes in Silwan or was the prime minister out of line with his statements? The debate continues.

Matt Solomon is the national director of iVoteIsrael, a non-partisan advocacy group working to get out the vote in the American-Israeli community. His articles have appeared in numerous publications both in Israel and the US. He lives with his family in Alon Shvut. Solomon can be contacted at, Follow iVoteIsrael:; Facebook; and Twitter.

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