Column One: Making Israel’s case

The gov't must stop trying to play both sides.

Forty-three years after the Jewish people liberated Jerusalem, our capital has never been under greater assault. But it has also never been more energetically defended by an indignant Jewish people – in Israel and throughout the world.
Last week, Makor Rishon reported that US diplomats have been “showing interest” in all Jewish construction plans in the capital. Ambassador James Cunningham and Jerusalem Consul-General Daniel Rubinstein have met repeatedly with relevant government ministers to express US opposition to all construction in Jewish neighborhoods built since 1967. Bowing to this shocking US assault on Israel’s sovereignty, the government reportedly canceled construction plans that had already been approved for 2,500 apartments in Ramot, Pisgat Ze’ev, Neveh Ya’acov, Gilo and Har Homa.
The US is also demanding that Israel take no action against illegal Arab construction in the capital. That is, the US is acting to undermine the rule of law in Israel twice. First, it seeks to deny Jewish Jerusalemites their property rights, and second, it calls for Israel not to enforce its laws against Arab criminals.
The Obama administration’s attempt to weaken Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem is part of a larger move by the international Left to support the Islamic campaign to eject Israel from Jerusalem by denying Jewish rights to the city. The EU is so committed to subverting Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem that even in the midst of its financial crisis, with EU economies seemingly collapsing like dominoes, sources say that the EU mission to Israel has just pledged at least €1 million to Ir Amim. Ir Amim is an NGO whose mission is to undermine Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem. According to NGO Monitor, two-thirds of Ir Amim’s budget comes from the EU and from the Norwegian, Swedish and Czech governments.
In their bid to undermine Israel’s sovereignty, US President Barak Obama and the Europeans are assisted by leftist, increasingly anti-Zionist Jews. Following the lead of the US pro-Palestinian lobby J Street, earlier this month, prominent French Jewish intellectuals Bernard Henri-Levy and Alain Finkielkraut published a manifesto signed by hundreds of their cohorts attacking Israel for the absence of peace in the region and calling on the EU and the US to pressure Israel to surrender Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians.
On US campuses, far-left Jewish students have taken a prominent role in undermining recognition of Israel’s right to exist. At the University of California, Berkeley, and on other campuses, Jewish students have collaborated with Muslim groups in their campaign to divest the universities’ holdings in companies that invest in Israel.
At Brandeis, Jewish students organized a campaign to disinvite Ambassador Michael Oren from this year’s commencement ceremony.
Not surprisingly, like other Jewish anti-Israel initiatives before, these moves in France and in the US have garnered significant media coverage and support. What received less coverage is the popular backlash in the European and Jewish communities against these initiatives.
After belatedly awakening to the threat of divestment from Israel, Jews at Berkeley and the surrounding community organized a massive and for now successful campaign to block the divestment drive. At Brandeis, thousands of students, faculty and alumni signed a petition supporting the university’s invitation to Oren.
And in Europe, Italian parliament member Fiamma Nirenstein responded to the anti-Israel manifesto with a counter-petition.
Nirenstein’s petition notes that in their anti-Israel diatribe, Levy and Finkielkraut ignore the fact that the absence of Middle East peace is due not to Israel’s size but to the Arab world’s refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist. She further noted that by attacking Israel now, the signatories of their anti-Israel screed have diverted the public’s attention away from Iran’s nuclear program that today threatens not only Israel, but Europe.
Nirenstein’s position was echoed in a sister petition published by French Jewish leader Prof. Shmuel Trigano. Together, the Italian and French petitions garnered twice the number of signatures as the Levy-Finklekraut declaration.
IT IS not just that the overwhelming majority of Jews in Israel and worldwide supports Israel and opposes any attempt to delegitimize Israel and Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem. Jewish activists are responding to false denunciations of Israel’s rights by asserting the Jewish people’s rights to Israel generally and to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria specifically.
For instance, last month the European Coalition for Israel partnered with Canadians for Israel’s Legal Rights and hosted a conference in San Remo, Italy. There they commemorated the 90th anniversary of the San Remo Conference that determined the legal status of the Ottoman Empire after its break-up in World War I.
In 1920, the San Remo Conference determined that the legal title to the Land of Israel – including Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria – belonged to the Jewish people. The San Remo resolutions were incorporated into international law through the mandates issued by the League of Nations, and their legal force has never been canceled or superseded by any subsequent treaty or binding international resolution.
The participants at last month’s conference came from Europe, Israel and North America. Their message was clear. It is long past time for Israel and the Jewish people to begin asserting our rights to our capital city and our land. Our attempts to square circles by agreeing to compromise on our rights in exchange for promises of support and peace have brought us to the point where Israel’s very legitimacy is being called into question throughout the world.
Disturbingly, instead of supporting efforts like the San Remo commemoration conference, and embracing staunch supporters of Israel from Rome to San Francisco to Jerusalem itself, the government is sitting on the fence. On the one hand, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu declares daily that Jerusalem will remain Israel’s undivided capital and that he will make no concessions in relation to the city. On the other hand, the government’s actions bespeak a willingness to make massive concessions on Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.
Take the Temple Mount. The cradle of Jewish civilization is not mentioned in the government’s list of Jewish heritage sites. So, too, despite the government’s protestations of devotion to Jerusalem, it has not lifted the bar on Jewish worship on the Temple Mount. Jews remain the only religious group that does not enjoy full freedom of worship in the city.
In announcing the start of the so-called peace negotiations between the US and Israel and between the US and the Fatah branch of the Palestinian Authority, the State Department claimed last week that the Netanyahu government has agreed to block Jewish construction in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood for several years. The government has not disputed this claim.
In truth, the government’s very willingness to participate in the Obama administration’s phony peace process undermines Israel’s control over Jerusalem. Given the Obama administration’s obvious commitment to repartitioning the city, it is clear that the talks can only weaken Israel’s control over our capital city.
THE GOVERNMENT’S weakness on Jerusalem is a reflection of a wider unwillingness of Israeli diplomats to stand by Israel’s supporters and against Israel’s detractors worldwide. More often than not, the groups that receive the most enthusiastic support from Israeli embassies are those that seek to undermine Israel’s rights.
The behavior of the embassy in London is case in point. This week the embassy sent out an announcement to its mailing list urging the public to attend a lecture by former Peace Now director Gavri Bargil at the London School of Economics.
On the other hand, the embassy chose not to publicize a lecture by Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin on Yom Yerushalayim. Begin’s speech was sponsored by several major Jewish organizations. It is unclear who sponsored Bargil’s talk.
Late last year, Akiva Tor, Israel’s Consul-General in San Francisco, opposed a resolution put before the Jewish Federation board to boycott all groups that support boycotts and divestment from Israel. The resolution was put forward after the Federation-supported Jewish Film Festival hosted Rachel Corrie’s mother and screened a pro-Hamas propaganda film lionizing Corrie, who was inadvertently run over by an IDF bulldozer while attempting to block IDF counterterror operations in Gaza. In a letter to the local Jewish paper, Tor claimed that Corrie’s mother was no different from “an Israeli terror victim.”
In Los Angeles, Consul-General Yaakov Dayan was interviewed last year on a local radio show. He was unable to explain the legal basis for Israeli communities beyond the 1949 armistice lines. It took a local Jewish activist who called into the station to explain Israel’s rights under the League of Nations mandate.
The only government representative who attended the San Remo conference was Likud MK Danny Danon.
The government’s failure to take the lead in strengthening Israel and Jewish communities worldwide is not a new phenomenon. On Wednesday night, on Yom Yerushalayim in Ir David, the historic site of King David’s palace, the Moskowitz Prize for Zionism was given to three extraordinary leaders: Anita Tucker, Rabbi Yoel Schwartz and Brig.-Gen. (res.) Dr. Aharon Davidi. All of them have strengthened Israel and the Jewish people through their pioneering work, often in spite of government opposition.
Tucker was among the founders of Netzer Hazani in Gush Katif in 1975. The community, built on Gaza’s barren sand dunes, was one of the most successful agricultural communities in the world until it was destroyed by the government in 2005. Rather than breaking apart after her life’s work was destroyed, Tucker has been a central force in rebuilding Netzer Hazani and the 20 other communities of Gush Katif.
Rabbi Yoel Schwartz is the spiritual leader of the IDF’s Nahal Haredi unit. Schwartz bucked opposition from both the IDF and the ultra-Orthodox establishment and founded the crucial unit, which brings ultra-Orthodox youths into the IDF in large numbers for the first time.
In the early 1980s, Davidi completed a military service that began in 1944 and brought him to command positions in some of the most pivotal battles in the nation’s history. After retirement, Davidi decided that something had to be done to make Diaspora Jewry feel it was a part of the IDF. So in 1983 he established Sar-El, which brings foreigners to Israel to volunteer on IDF bases. Since its founding Sar-El has brought more than 100,000 volunteers from 30 countries to Israel.
Tucker, Schwartz and Davidi are extraordinary individuals. But their success owes much to the fact that they believe in Israel and the Jewish people. They understand that the Jews who seek to undermine the state are a tiny minority. Rather than try to appease them, they work with the vast majority to strengthen the country and its people.
It is impossible to reconcile the rights of the Jewish people and thedemands of the Obama administration and the alliance of theinternational Left and the Islamic world it leads in their campaign toundermine Israeli control over Jerusalem.
The government muststop trying to play both sides of the aisle. Instead it should followthe lead of its extraordinary citizens and of Jews throughout the worldin asserting the rights of the Jewish people to our capital and ourcountry.