A newlywed Israeli couple buys an apartment in Jerusalem’s French Hill neighborhood. Sure, it’s small – but they’re just starting out. What a thrilling time in their young lives; it’s their first home!
Soon they’re blessed with the wonderful news that they are expecting their first child. But their apartment has just one bedroom. They need to build a modest extension, so they can have a nursery for the baby.
“Not so fast,” says the Biden administration. Large parts of French Hill are beyond the old 1967 lines, which means that it’s a “settlement,” according to the US government. And as White House National Security spokesman John Kirby explained this week, the administration is very concerned about the latest reports of plans for Israeli construction beyond the old armistice lines. Any Israeli “settlement” construction will “increase tensions,” Kirby said. It will “make a two-state solution that much more difficult to achieve.”
That little baby in French Hill is a “settler.” Her nursery will “increase tensions.” It will somehow impede Middle East peace. Who knew one little Jewish baby could cause so much trouble?
Israel never committed not to build in Area C
I think John Kirby might be surprised if he ever took a close look at the text of the various agreements that Israel has signed with its Arab neighbors.
There is not one word in the Oslo I accord of 1993, or the Oslo II agreement of 1995, that prohibits Israeli construction in the 60% of Judea-Samaria that Israel controls. Not a word about it in the Jordan-Israel peace treaty (1994), the Hebron Agreement (1997), or the Wye River Memorandum (1998). Nor is it in the Abraham Accords, either.
What the Biden administration is demanding is something that cannot be found in any agreement that Israel has ever signed with any Arab government. The US is asking Israel to unilaterally go above and beyond its actual obligations and make new concessions to the Palestinian Arabs, in exchange for – absolutely nothing.
The Palestinian Authority would not be expected to, say, honor Israel’s dozens of requests for the extradition of terrorists. The PA wouldn’t be asked to outlaw terrorist groups. It wouldn’t halt anti-Jewish incitement. And those are all actual obligations that the Oslo accords require. Israel would get literally nothing in return for halting all Jewish construction beyond the 1967 lines. Israel would be making concessions that Oslo does not even require, while the PA would not have to honor what Oslo does require. Remarkable!
The US position applies not only to Jewish communities that are located in outlying areas of the territories. I chose to situate our hypothetical young couple in French Hill in order to underline the fact that according to the Biden administration’s definition, large parts of Jerusalem qualify as “illegal settlements.”
Gilo. Neve Ya’acov. Ramat Shlomo. Pisgat Ze’ev. Har Homa. Parts of Ramot and Ramat Eshkol and East Talpiot. And, of course, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. All of them are “illegal settlements” that would have to be demolished to make room for “the two-state solution,” that is, for the creation of a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines.
It should be noted that just as the various Israeli-Palestinian agreements do not prohibit Jewish construction in the Israeli-governed portion of the territories, they do not prohibit Arab construction in the Palestinian Authority-governed 40% of the territories. And the PA undertakes construction constantly – without a word of protest from the US State Department.
If a Palestinian Arab couple adds a nursery to their apartment in the PA’s capital, Ramallah, that’s fine, according to the Biden administration. But if an Israeli Jewish couple builds a nursery in many neighborhoods of Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, it’s an obstacle to peace. It’s the very definition of a racist double standard – “yes” to Baby Fatima, “no” to Baby Rachel.
The writer is president-elect of the Religious Zionists of America. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995, and the author of A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice against Iranian Terror.