by Isi Leibler
The serious impact of the US administration’s fierce condemnation of a routine municipal approval for construction of 1100 homes in the Jerusalem suburb of Gilo must not be underestimated.
It is crucial that Americans and the global community are made aware that Gilo is not a settlement outpost. For 40 years nobody ever challenged the fact that Gilo belongs to Jewish Jerusalem. It is a 100% Jewish populated suburb of south western Jerusalem located minutes from the heart of the city. During the second intifada it was under sniper fire from terrorists located in the adjoining Arab suburb of Bet Jala. It is as much part of Jerusalem as the suburbs of Rehavia or Katamon. To deny that Gilo is part of Israel is akin to denying that Tel Aviv is part of Israel.
To even hint that Obama's formulation of 1967 borders means that we are obliged to "negotiate with the Palestinians" over Gilo, would simply be inconceivable. It would challenge the residential rights of 300,000 Jews in the entirely Jewish populated areas of Jerusalem over the green line such as Ramat Eshkol, Pisgat Zeev, Ramot and French Hill. These Jewish suburbs of Jerusalem, illegally occupied between 1948 and 1967 by the Jordanians who made the area Judenrein, would be up for grabs or "negotiable". Every mainstream Zionist political party would unhesitatingly refuse to negotiate over these areas.
This US condemnation is magnified by the fact that it took place in the immediate aftermath of the defamatory address by the intransigent PA president Mahmoud Abbas at the UN General Assembly. Abbas refused to compromise on anything, reiterated his determination to never recognize a Jewish state and even denied the historical association of the Jewish people with the Holy Land.
He accused Israel of "ethnic cleansing", employing terms such as "racist” and "apartheid" without retracting his earlier proclamations that not a single Jew would be permitted to live in the new Palestinian state. He boasted that he would reunite with Hamas whose Charter calls on the faithful to murder all Jews and remains committed to the destruction of Israel. We are repeatedly reminded that Abbas is the best peace partner we will ever get but at times like this we would do well to remind ourselves that his Ph.D. thesis was based on justifying Holocaust denial.
The Gilo construction hysteria coincides with delicate diplomatic maneuvers at the UN Security Council arising from the Palestinian abrogation of the Oslo Accords. We need US support to ensure that the fallout from this on a cluster of issues does not inflict major damage on us. For example, some European countries are likely to yet again place us in the dock when we refuse to accept substitution of UN Resolution 242 by a formula in which the 1949 armistice lines (with swaps dependent on Palestinian acquiescence) become the new benchmark for negotiations. That would lead to the indefensible 1967 lines being de-facto imposed as the new borders, with significant sections of Jewish Jerusalem and the Temple Mount excluded from Israel.
In addition, many of these nations are also unlikely to demand that the Palestinians accept Israel as a Jewish state which poses an existential threat for us, and which, amongst other matters, relates to the Palestinian foregoing of the Arab refugee right of return to Israel.
We do not expect the US government never to criticize Israel or from time to time have differences with us. But during such a sensitive situation, the vicious public condemnation of Israel over construction of homes in its own capital is hardly the manner one would expect the US to behave towards an ally.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who in her previous role as a senator had supported recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, even went so far as to accuse Israel of being "provocative".
Not surprisingly, the Europeans saw this as a clear signal to intensify their pressure against us. The EU Foreign Policy Spokesperson, Catherine Ashton, demanded that Israel revoke the permit. The French Foreign Minister followed suit. And even German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined the pack informing the media that she condemned Netanyahu and “raised doubts over the Israeli government’s readiness to begin serious negotiations with the Palestinians”.
Despite his charm offensive towards President Obama, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu responded that Israel’s capital and in particular the Jewish suburbs of Jerusalem had never hitherto been subject to outside interference and his government would not alter its policy. He pointed out that substantial Arab construction plans had been approved at the same time.
It is thus imperative that as we witness the US Administration’s passive stance as the Europeans continue pressurizing Israel, we do not accept Obama's UN speech as the last word on the matter, especially with Congress and the majority of Americans being strongly opposed to one-sided pressures against the Jewish state.
Indeed, Congress has already demonstrated its unwillingness to continue tolerating Palestinian intransigence. Over the past three months it blocked nearly $200 million of aid to the Palestinians in response to the PA breach of the Oslo Accords and their dismissal of US demands to negotiate with Israel. The House and Senate Foreign Relations Committees have indicated that funding would remain suspended until the question of Palestinian statehood at the UN had been settled.
Yet, the Palestinians believe that in return for US opposition to their efforts at the UN, they can leverage the Obama Administration to extract further unilateral concessions from Israel in their ongoing campaign to dismantle the Jewish State in stages. It is therefore crucial that American Jewish leaders and friends of Israel now raise their voices against efforts to transform Jewish Jerusalem into a negotiating issue.
ADL’s Abe Foxman was one of the few Jewish leaders courageous enough to speak up and condemn Obama's Israel bashing at the early stages. He recently accused me, mistakenly, of not being willing to praise Obama’s positive initiatives towards Israel despite my having done so on many occasions However I pointed out that over the past 6 months, the ADL like other Jewish establishment bodies, had remained silent in the face of Obama’s biased diplomatic forays against Israel. One hopes, that in conjunction with other Jewish leaders he will again display the courage to publicly condemn the administration over its behavior in relation to housing in Jewish Jerusalem.
If the Jewish response to this remains muted, it will serve to strengthen those in the Administration who are determined to maintain the ongoing policy of appeasing the Palestinians at Israel's expense. More importantly, the pressure on the administration to follow up on Obama’s dazzling UN speech will evaporate and it will be reduced to nothing other than an electoral ploy to attract Jewish and pro-Israeli Americans to the Democratic camp.
This column was originally published in Israel HayomIsi Leibler
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