March 21: Change America’s approach to the conflict

It is of utmost necessity that Israel make dignitaries see Jerusalem for themselves.

Change America’s approach to the conflict
Sir, – The fact that Gen. David Petraeus has come out with a statement about Israeli-Arab relations affecting American soldiers in Afghanistan and Pakistan bodes no good for Israel (“‘Arab-Israeli hostility hurts America in the Middle East,’” March 18).
Gen. Petraeus is deemed a man of integrity, and the lives of American soldiers are not to be trifled with. However, what is needed now in Israel is an entirely different approach to the basic American understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Yad Vashem and Theodor Herzl’s grave are important sites to visit, but more important are walking tours of Jerusalem and the rest of the country. Commentators on Israel’s situation have no idea where things are located. The Hurva Synagogue is at the very beginning of the Old City. The Temple Mount and even Al Aksa are quite a distance in. Ramat Shlomo is a completely Jewish neighborhood adjacent to another neighborhood in which a majority of Arabs live. Jerusalem is made up of Jewish and Arab neighborhoods living in proximity to one another, and this is why the principle of a divided Jerusalem is so ridiculous.
One cannot understand this simply on paper. One can only realize this by actually walking through these cities. The absurdity of some of the Arab arguments will be very apparent. It is of utmost necessity that Israel make dignitaries see all of this for themselves.
Too many cooks?
Sir, – It is no wonder that Israel has this flap with Washington (“Inner cabinet meets to seek way out of crisis with US,” March 18). The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.
We have 30 ministers running affairs, with no one in control over them – minister in charge of growing sunflowers, minister for repair of punctured tires, minister for fixing public restrooms, etc. No wonder Netanyahu hadn’t a clue what one of them would say about building 1,600 units in Ramat Shlomo.
Israel uses the same word, shalom, for both hello and goodbye – because here, we don’t know whether we are coming or going.
Seriously, we must change the electoral system from proportional representation, which produces weak, multi-partied, multi-ministered governments, to constituency representation which would result in three or four parties in the Knesset, with one party having a flat majority and able to govern.
Flak for everything
Sir, – No matter what we do, it garners a bad response from the world. This week’s news had the US yelling at us on practically every page. IBA news stated that AIPAC wants to hear what Netanyahu is going to do.
We rebuild a 200-year-old destroyed synagogue, and that’s no good (“‘Day of Rage’ rioting rocks east Jerusalem,” March 17); we build where we’re allowed to, and that’s no good (“US presses for Israeli concessions following Jerusalem housing flap,” March 15); we apologize for everything, and that’s no good. What do we do that is good?
Misplaced opinions...
 Sir, – I don’t see why The Jerusalem Post had to give front-page prominence to Hagi Ben-Artzi, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s brother-in-law, and allow him to give such public vent to his extremist, unworthy attitudes (“Netanyahu’s brother-in-law lashes out at Obama, his Jewish supporters,” March 18).
His spurious attack on “78%” of American Jewry does Israel no good whatsoever. His declaration that Israel can rely more on Christian Evangelists than on most US Jews should not be announced in flaming headlines; it only shows that the galut mentality has not yet faded from our midst.
Other than having the yichus of being Bibi’s relation by marriage, Ben-Artzi’s political opinions should be given the same publishing space as those of the last taxi driver I rode with.
...and wrong advice?
Sir, – Your editorial “Fateful choice” (March 17) takes nothing less than the way of appeasement toward the Arabs through the US representations of their cause. America’s purpose in this administration is to force Israel back to the 1967 borders or their equivalent, and probably support some kind of refugee acceptance program as the basis for an agreement on a Palestinian state. If successful, this concept would leave Israel more than vulnerable to incursion and eventually lead to an all-out war or Israel’s demise.
All this is the result of our own acquiescence in the two-state concept for these many years, a dangerous game we helped to set up ourselves, and now the chips are down.
Sir, – I respectfully suggest to Douglas Bloomfield (“It’s not about settlements, stupid, it’s about trust,” March 18) that the breach of trust came first from the Americans: When Israel announced the “Heritage Site” designation of the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb, and the Arabs protested, the Americans should have given the Arabs a dressing-down. Anyone who knows anything should realize that there is nothing that belongs more to the Jewish people than those two sites.
To suggest that a remedy for the current flap over Ramat Shlomo would be to release Palestinian prisoners, while the Americans keep Jonathan Pollard incarcerated for more than 20 years, is as big an insult to Israel as any suffered by Vice President Joe Biden.
Laying down the law
Sir, – Larry Derfner fails to cite which Israeli law he claims effectively prohibits Arabs from buying old housing in Jewish parts of Jerusalem. Are Jewish sellers and Arab buyers in French Hill, Neveh Ya’acov, Pisgat Ze’ev and elsewhere truly subject to prosecution for such sales?
Derfner is invited to meet increasing numbers of Arab new owners here and witness the extent of their new construction.
Larry Derfner replies: Israeli law allows only Israeli citizens and foreign Jews to buy property on state-owned land, and the overwhelming majority of land in Jerusalem’s Jewish neighborhoods is state-owned. With a handful of exceptions, the 250,000 Arab residents on the post-’67 side of Jerusalem are not Israeli citizens, so by law they cannot purchase homes anywhere in Jewish Jerusalem except in a few very old neighborhoods when the land is privately owned. In French Hill, Neveh Ya’acov and Pisgat Ze’ev – Jewish neighborhoods on the post-’67 side of town – the great majority of Arab residents are renters. The few Arabs who’ve bought homes there are either Israeli citizens, or they haven’t registered their properties with the state, or they’ve just slipped through the cracks.
So yes, there are exceptions, but the law in Jerusalem forbids virtually all local Arabs from building or buying in nearly any Jewish part of the city, while any Jew can build and buy in all the neighborhoods of Jerusalem, Jewish and Arab alike.
Longterm benefits
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RANDY MCNAMARADirector of Corporate CommunicationsLandmark EducationSan Francisco, California
Chief rabbi is no easy job
Sir, – Shmuley Boteach rightly pays tribute to Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks as a thinker and communicator, but he is unfair when he seemingly blames Sacks for almost everything that is wrong in today’s Britain (“Why America has no chief rabbi,” March 16). In a complex of intermeshed social, economic, political and ideological factors, no chief rabbi, and probably not even a Biblical prophet, could be expected to engage in theatrics, wave a magic wand and see all the problems creep away in shame.
Sacks does what all religious leaders ought to do: advocate for a world based on justice, peace and truth. That takes longer than waving a wand, and it requires no theatrics, because it entails creating a constructive national climate. We must pray that he, and all of us who share his concerns, will succeed.