Har Homa 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In the Biblical narrative, when Jacob went out to reach a reconciliation with
Esau, he sent flocks of goats and sheep and camels ahead of him – as a sign of
good faith, and to appease his brother. He also took defensive action, dividing
his camp into two groups, not knowing whether Esau would attack in revenge for
Jacob’s having taken his birthright years before. In the end, the brothers
reconciled, agreeing to live separately in the Land.
Last week, the prime
minister’s special envoy, Itzhak Molcho, traveled to Jordan under the auspices
of the Quartet and the Jordanian government to explore the possibility of
renewing negotiations with the Palestinians for a two-state resolution to our
conflict. Both the current government and past Israeli governments have
declared a two-state solution to be the best strategic option for our future and
have pledged to work to achieve it.
The Jordan meeting was the first,
fragile attempt at renewing negotiations that had broken off over a year ago, in
part over our government’s insistence on continuing settlement activity on land
that is ostensibly up for negotiation in the West Bank and east
But instead of sending gifts in advance of the meeting (i.e.
freezing settlement building), our government undermined its own special envoy
by releasing a list of government tenders for new housing units – including 312
units over the Green Line in east Jerusalem, Pisgat Ze’ev and Har
ALTHOUGH THE government has been talking for months about resuming
building in east Jerusalem, the current tenders were the first to be published
for new Israeli building in the area in over a year. The plans turn the
declarations into unilateral facts on the ground and totally contravene the
spirit of negotiations. They also fly in the face of stiff international
The government defended the decision, claiming the tenders
weren’t “new” because, as noted above, the plans have been in place for a long
time. But there is a wide gap between declaratory statements and actual
building. The attempt to obfuscate these acts by claiming they were not new was
As a professional organization working toward a more
equitable Jerusalem and toward an agreed-upon future for both Jews and Arabs in
the city, Ir Amim expressed dismay at the chilling effect the renewed
construction would have on chances for a successful return to
Of course, there is no guarantee negotiations will resume
if Israel curbs its construction over the Green Line, but such building projects
in east Jerusalem and the West Bank at this time certainly serve to weaken the
hand of those Palestinian leaders who wish to return to the table. As an Israeli
organization, we believe it is vital that the Israeli public know what the
government is doing in our name, in order to be able to evaluate its impact on
Regrettably, The Jerusalem Post
chose to “attack the
messenger” in an editorial last week (“Gould’s hullabaloo,” January 5) rather
than address the issues at hand. Worse, the Post
suggested that Ir Amim’s data
on Jerusalem is somehow compromised but failed to spell out just which
statistics the paper finds questionable.
Does Israel “have the right” to
build in east Jerusalem? It depends on how you see Israel’s act of
unification/occupation/annexation of the 70 sq.km. of West Bank land added to
Jerusalem's borders in 1967. Under Israeli law, east Jerusalem is fully a part
of Israel, even though the Palestinians who were added along with their land are
Israeli residents, not citizens.
Under international law, and in the eyes of
virtually all the nations of the world, including our strongest allies, such as
the United States, Great Britain, Australia and other supporters, east Jerusalem
is another part of the West Bank, no different than Alon Shvut, Tekoa or Nokdim.
Even worse for Israel, the unresolved status of east Jerusalem has a negative
impact on the status of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, for no country will
recognize Israeli sovereignty in any part of the city until the sovereignty
throughout the city is determined once and for all.
Is it wise to
continue expanding Israeli neighborhoods (settlements) in east Jerusalem? Under
the Clinton Parameters, the most widely accepted principles for negotiating
Jerusalem’s future, large residential areas such as Gilo, Ramot and Pisgat Ze’ev
would be recognized as Israeli territory under any negotiated peace agreement.
However, because such an outcome would involve recognizing an annexation of land
over the Green Line, Israel would need to identify commensurate land within
Israel proper to swap for inclusion of these areas.
That means that the
more we expand the built-up areas in east Jerusalem, the more land within Israel
proper we will have to swap under an agreement. Har Homa, built after
negotiations were well under way, was not recognized under the Clinton
Parameters, and is a volatile issue.
The basic demands of good faith
would suggest, at a minimum, that Israel give credibility to its diplomatic
emissary and to the current negotiations by refraining from unilateral steps
that risk embarrassing Israel’s hosts and contradict the spirit of giveand-
But, alas, present-day Israel is not the Jacob of the Bible; nor
are the Palestinians the modern equivalent of Esau. But we certainly
could learn from our history and our heritage in order to create the conditions
under which we can actually explore a negotiated resolution to our conflict. For
the sake of our children and our future. Let’s start with Jerusalem.
writer is associate director of Ir Amim (‘City of Peoples/Nations’), an Israel
nonprofit organization dedicated to a more equitable Jerusalem, and to reaching
an agreed-upon future for the city.