Saturday, March 13, 2010
Today's papers reported that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu by telephone yesterday offering him a stern rebuke regarding the planned expansion of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo. According to the papers President Obama was furious over the ruckus created during Vice President Biden's visit last week. Clearly Netanyahu's government erred in the timing of the housing permission's issuance. Then again perhaps this is exactly what the right wing Interior Minister Eli Yishai intended. Here is my view for what it is worth. Jerusalem is not the same as the West Bank. Call it East Jerusalem if you want, but the city is unified and must remain so under Israeli sovereignty. Only under Israeli sovereignty have Jews, Muslims and Christians had access to their holy sites (except of course when rioting). Israel gained control of these areas from Jordan during the 1967 war. The ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo sits near French Hill and is part of the bustling Jerusalem municipality. (It is most helpful to look at a map.) When in Jerusalem I often drive by Ramat Shlomo on my way to my cousin's apartment in the northern suburb of Pisgat Zev. I agree with Biden's words: "Sometimes, only a friend can deliver the hardest truths," in particular that "the status quo is not sustainable." Sometimes friends see things about us that we cannot see ourselves. But what status quo are we talking about here? The status quo of Arab belligerence against Israel? Unfortunately not. The issue is that Israel is far more sensitive to rebuke than the Palestinians and therefore more crucial to moving any American peace process forward. The fact of the matter is that Israel listens to the United States more often and far better than the Palestinians. Netanyahu has halted construction on West Bank settlements since taking over as PM. Where is the thanks for this bold and difficult undertaking? This act is especially remarkable given that Israelis are rightly far more concerned about Iran. Where is the other side reaching out across the divide? Instead the refrain is "Israel should be doing more..." Did I miss the Palestinian's gesture? I have noted countless Israeli gestures. Again I say that if the Palestinians would recognize the State of Israel's legitimate claim to this land if by no other authority than the United Nation's 1947 vote and recognize in particular Israel as a state connected to Jewish history and Jewish aspirations (in Arabic), you would see the vast majority of Israelis falling over themselves and giving territory for a Palestinian state. Until that day I continue to pray for peace and will try to look past the latest diplomatic row--and the next.