We’ve been there, done that. Plans for building in Jerusalem east of the Green Line are announced, and the world goes slightly berserk. It is really tiresome.
Word from the government here is that 1) these building projects are just in the first stages (is this supposed to give people hope that maybe they’ll never finalize?), 2) that the plans were announced many weeks ago, and, 3) that some on the left (Peace Now, which has a propensity for this behavior was mentioned) deliberately called media attention to it now to cause Netanyahu problems while he is in the States.
An editorial from the Wall Street Journal criticized Obama for taking this on all the way from Jakarta:
“…So what did President Obama talk about upon arriving in Jakarta yesterday? Israeli construction projects.
“Why Mr. Obama chose to pick this fight from the distance of Southeast Asia is anyone’s guess. Israel’s decision to proceed with the building of some 1,000 housing units in the Har Homa neighborhood of municipal Jerusalem—a ‘settlement’ only in the most jaundiced sense of the term—was made in October. Israeli governments of both the right and left have encouraged similar building projects since Jerusalem was reunified in 1967. And construction of the new housing will not begin for months if not years.
“None of that deterred Mr. Obama, who warned the Israeli government that ‘this kind of activity is never helpful when it comes to peace negotiations.’
“…All Israel has done is insist that Jews have a right to live anywhere in their capital city, something that might be controversial in Ramallah but ought not to be in Washington. Mr. Obama’s public endorsement of the Palestinian view of what constitutes a settlement only puts the negotiated peace he seeks further out of reach.”
Jonathan Tobin — whose piece in Commentary is entitled “Charm Offensive Ends as Obama Panders to Muslim World” — reflects similar and even more serious concerns:
“Obama chose to use his visit to Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, as the venue for comments directly criticizing Israel…
“…now that the election is over, Obama is back to his old tricks, seizing upon an announcement that can have no impact on any theoretical peace deal in order to pander to a Muslim world that seeks Israel’s destruction. By making a statement about Jerusalem while in Indonesia, Obama is signaling that the United States regards Jewish Jerusalem as being no different from the most remote settlement in the West Bank: an illegal outpost that must be destroyed and its inhabitants removed. Such a statement helps fuel the Arab irredentism that has been the primary obstacle to peace since Israel’s birth in 1948.
“Obama’s pandering to the Muslim world is also a signal to Jewish Democrats that their party’s leader is once again throwing Israel under the bus in pursuit of popularity in the Third World…”
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s response to Obama was pointed and on the mark, as far as it went. His office put out a statement that said:
“Jerusalem is not a settlement; Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel. Israel has never accepted upon itself restrictions of any kind on construction in Jerusalem…including during the ten months in which construction was suspended in Judea and Samaria.
Israel sees no connection between the diplomatic process and planning and building policy in Jerusalem, which has not changed in 40 years. All Israeli governments in the past 40 years have built in all parts of the city. During this period, peace agreements were signed with Egypt and Jordan, and for 17 years, diplomatic negotiations have been conducted with the Palestinians. These are historical facts. Construction in Jerusalem has never hindered the peace process.
The disagreements with the US over Jerusalem are well-known. They are not new and have continued for 40 years. We hope to overcome them and continue to advance the diplomatic negotiations.
In a TV interview yesterday, the prime minister elaborated:
“You are talking about a handful of apartments that really don’t affect the map at all, contrary to impressions that might be perceived from certain news reports.”
Mr. Netanyahu will not be holding his breath waiting for an opportunity to end the disagreements with the US over Jerusalem. That much is clear.
If I have unease it is because his statements are only about Jerusalem and say nothing about Judea and Samaria and building there. Tomorrow he meets with Clinton regarding ways to re-start the process.
As would be expected, PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat has milked this for all it’s worth: “The international community must respond to Israel’s unilateral measures by instantly (instantly?) recognizing a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders(sic).”
The international community must intervene immediately, he said, to salvage the two-state solution, which would be a “natural response” to the measures of Jerusalem. “…Palestinians could no longer remain idle in the face of Israel’s practices that consolidate the occupation…”
The man’s a clown, albeit a potentially dangerous one.
For a sense of deja vu about this issue, as well as an explanation of the strategic significance of Har Homa, see Lenny Ben-David’s blog, here:
Also lending an air of deja vu to the news is Obama’s statement yesterday (alluded to by Tobin, above) that,
“With respect to outreach to the Muslim world, I think that our efforts have been earnest and sustained…
“We don’t expect that we are going to completely eliminate some of the misunderstandings and mistrust that have developed over a long period of time, but we do think that we’re on the right path.”
This is going to increase US security, you see.
I wrote recently about the problem of rock-throwing by Arabs. Nothing is more perverse and difficult to explain than the fact that Israeli ambulances are attacked with rocks even though Arabs have full and equal access to Israeli medical care. An Israeli ambulance might be carrying an Arab patients — or, actually, an Arab doctor.
Khaled Abu Toameh, who is doing a splendid series of articles with Hudson-NY, addresses this issue:
According to the Iranian news agency Fars, Hamas Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmed Yousef in Gaza has extended an invitation to Iranian president Ahmadinejad to visit. This will give a boost to the “resistance front.”
On the brighter side, I have this from an inside source: Anne Bayefsky’s report on the forthcoming Durban III to take place in NYC in September 2011 notwithstanding, there may be reason to hope that this will not materialize.
Bayefsky’s information is solid in terms of what is being discussed in the halls of the UN. But my source is well enough connected to be aware of political goings-on that might “discourage” the plans.
I pondered recently whether it would be necessary sometime soon to take pre-emptive military action against our enemies at our borders. I have no information on this, but find it at least minimally reassuring that there is indication that the IDF is at work planning new strategies for the next time — strategies that would help to protect our fighters in the context of urban fighting and deal with an enemy that uses its own people as human shields. It is felt that civilian populations will have to be evacuated from cities or towns that will be attacked, either in Lebanon or Gaza.
Presumably this will allow us to more readily hit rocket storage and launching sites.