Jerusalem Gilo skyline 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
We must not underestimate the serious implications of the US administration’s
fierce condemnation of a routine municipal approval for construction of 1100
homes in the Jerusalem suburb of Gilo.
Although our government must find
a solution to avoid trumpeting bureaucratic announcements for long-term building
projects in Jerusalem, it is crucial that the global community understand that
Gilo is not a settlement outpost. For 40 years, nobody other than Arabs has
challenged the fact that Gilo belongs to Jewish Jerusalem. It is a 100 percent
Jewish-populated suburb of southwestern Jerusalem, located minutes from the
heart of the city. During the second intifada it was under sniper fire from
terrorists located in the neighboring Arab suburb of Beit Jala. Gilo is as much
part of Jerusalem as the suburbs of Rehavia or Katamon. To deny that Gilo
is part of Israel is akin to denying that Tel Aviv is part of Israel.
is simply inconceivable to even hint that Obama’s 1967 borders formula means
that we are obliged to “negotiate with the Palestinians” over Gilo. It would
challenge the residential rights of 300,000 Jews in the entirely Jewish
populated areas of Jerusalem over the Green Line such as Ramat Eshkol, Pisgat
Zeev, Ramot and French Hill. These Jewish suburbs of Jerusalem, illegally
occupied between 1948 and 1967 by the Jordanians who made the area Judenrein,
would be up for grabs or “negotiable.” No mainstream Zionist political party
would be willing to negotiate over these areas.
This US condemnation is
magnified by the fact that it took place in the immediate aftermath of the
defamatory address at the UN General Assembly by the intransigent Palestinian
Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas. He refused to compromise on anything,
reiterated his determination never to recognize a Jewish state and even denied
the historical association of the Jewish people with the Holy Land. He
hypocritically accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing,” employing terms such as
“racist” and “apartheid” despite his earlier proclamations that not a single Jew
would be permitted to live in the new Palestinian state. He boasted that he
would reunite with Hamas whose Charter remains committed to the destruction of
Israel and explicitly calls on the faithful to murder all Jews. We are
repeatedly warned that Abbas is the best peace partner we will ever get, but at
times like this we should remind ourselves that his Moscow University Ph.D.
thesis was a justification of Holocaust denial.
The Gilo construction
hysteria coincides with delicate diplomatic maneuvers at the UN Security Council
arising from the Palestinian abrogation of the Oslo Accords. We need US support
to ensure that the fallout from this does not inflict major damage on us. For
example, some European countries will undoubtedly place us in the dock again
when we refuse to accept the replacement of UN Resolution 242 by a formula in
which the 1949 armistice lines (with swaps dependent on Palestinian
acquiescence) become the new benchmark for negotiations. That would
impose on us the indefensible 1967 borders with even significant sections of
Jewish Jerusalem and the Temple Mount excluded from Israel.
many European nations will not demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as
a Jewish state, which is linked with forgoing the Arab refugee right of return
to Israel – an existential threat for us.
It is to be expected that the
US government may criticize or have occasional differences with us. But during
such a sensitive period, the vicious public condemnation of Israel over
construction of homes in its own capital is hardly how one would expect the US
to behave towards an ally. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who as a senator
had supported recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, even went so far
as to accuse Israel of being “provocative.”
Netanyahu’s endorsement of the Quintet’s plan to renew peace talks, newly
appointed US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta made barbed comments that Israel
was “isolating” itself and implied that it was to blame for the deterioration of
relations with Turkey and Egypt.
Not surprisingly, the Europeans
interpret such remarks as encouragement to intensify their pressure against us.
EU Foreign Policy Spokesperson Catherine Ashton demanded that Israel revoke the
construction permits. The French Foreign Minister followed suit. Even German
Chancellor Angela Merkel joined the pack, informing the media that she condemned
Netanyahu and “raised doubts over the Israeli government’s readiness to begin
serious negotiations with the Palestinians.”
Despite his charm offensive
toward President Obama, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu responded that the
future of the Jewish suburbs of Jerusalem had never been influenced by outside
parties and would not be subject to such in the future. He noted that
substantial Arab construction plans had been simultaneously approved.
US administration’s passive stance as the Europeans continue pressurizing us is
therefore highly detrimental. Especially as the Palestinians believe that in
return for US opposition to their efforts at the UN, they can leverage the Obama
administration to extract further unilateral concessions in their ongoing
campaign to dismantle the Jewish state. Hopefully most Americans who have become
increasingly enraged by the one-sided pressures against the Jewish state will
not accept Obama’s UN speech as the last word on the matter.
Indeed, on a
bi-partisan level, Congress has now taken the first step in responding to
Palestinian intransigence by blocking nearly $200 million of aid to the
Palestinians. This move was in direct response to the PA breach of the Oslo
Accords and dismissal of US demands to negotiate with Israel. The House and
Senate Foreign Relations Committees have indicated that funding would remain
suspended until the question of Palestinian statehood at the UN had been
In this environment it is crucial that American Jewish leaders
and friends of Israel raise their voices against efforts to transform Jewish
Jerusalem into a negotiating issue. To date, of the major Jewish organizations,
only the Zionist Organization of America has publicly condemned the US
administration on this issue.
ADL’s Abe Foxman was one of the few Jewish
leaders courageous enough to speak up and condemn Obama’s Israel-bashing at the
early stages. In a recent letter to The Jerusalem Post he accused me of not
praising Obama’s positive initiatives towards Israel despite my having done so
on many occasions. The ADL, on the other hand, together with many other Jewish
establishment bodies have been too quiet in the face of Obama’s biased
diplomatic forays against Israel. One hopes that he, and other Jewish leaders,
will again display the courage to publicly denounce the administration over its
condemnation of housing construction in Jewish Jerusalem.
If the Jewish
response to this issue remains muted, it will serve to strengthen those in the
US administration who are determined to maintain the ongoing policy of appeasing
the Palestinians at Israel’s expense. More importantly, the pressure on the
administration to follow up on Obama’s dazzling UN speech will evaporate, and
the speech will be reduced to nothing other than an electoral ploy to attract
Jewish and pro-Israeli Americans to the Democratic camp.The writer’s new
website can be viewed at www.wordfromjerusalem.com