Thursday, March 11, 2010

O’ Jerusalem!

I have often wondered – or should I say dreamed – what it would be like if the United States would be more supportive of Israel’s position with respect to peace with its neighbors, the Palestinians, and most importantly Israel’s right to Jerusalem.

The best I have ever heard on the issue of Jerusalem has been in the form of a Presidential candidate promising to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Virtually every candidate running for the Presidency has pledged to do that when elected – only to delay and disappoint afterward. The American embassy is still in Tel Aviv.

There are practical reasons for the United States to try and remain ‘neutral’ on the issue of Jerusalem. The truth is that although I would like it -moving the embassy to Jerusalem is not really all that that high on my agenda. But still - wouldn’t it be nice to see words followed by action?

If the United States would be more supportive of Israel they would get a lot more flack form the Arabs States and Europe (they get plenty already for being as close as they are). But I don’t think that the US would lose that much by standing with Israel a bit more. They would just get more of the same about the US is not being even handed enough.

I’m not even saying that the United States has to give up the idea of a Palestinian State. But it would be nice if they would be more supportive Israel’s claim to Jerusalem in the process. I truly believe that it would make a difference. But like I said. It is a wish; a dream.

The reality is that the Obama administration – as all previous administrations – does not support Israel’s position of sovereignty over all of Jerusalem. Not only that but the current administration has emphasized it’s disapproval of that position more than any other. The almost complete focus of the Obama administration is to emphasize the illegality of any settlements including those in East Jerusalem (the old city). They repeatedly condemn it. It is almost as though ‘illegal settlements’ is the cornerstone US foreign policy!

Although the Obama Administration can claim that they are just continuing the policies of the last administration, they are certainly emphasizing the Palestinian perspective over the Israeli one. President Obama has for the most part succeeded in pressuring the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu to stop all settlement construction including in the old city. That makes me both angry and sad.

President Obama has indeed taken this sharp turn but the United States is still the closest ally and friend that Israel has. By far! Perhaps the only real friend of any standing. The Arab States, Europe; Academia, and the media, most liberals and leftists (many of them Jews!) and even some conservatives like Pat Buchanan - have all vilified Israel to one extent or another and can hardly be called friends.

Which brings me to the current flap with Vice President Joe Biden. He is in Israel right now trying to patch up the cooled relationship between the two countries. It cooled in part because the President has pointedly visited many Arab countries spelling out his vision of peace - but he has not set foot in Israel since taking office. The Vice President has shown up trying to smooth things over.

So what does Israel do? Right in the middle of his visit they announce 1600 new housing units to be built in East Jerusalem. My instinct is to be proud and cheer. That is where my heart is. But my better judgement is to be upset. How stupid it is to insult the very people who support you the most - in this way! Yes, Biden said the relationship is unshakable. But what is gained by slapping him in the face with it while he’s there? It is a major embarrassment to an administration that has been trying to show it is more even handed. This is no way to treat a friend. Biden condemned it immediatly. From the Jerusalem Post:

Biden said that he realized that construction in east Jerusalem "is a very touchy subject in Israel," but because Israel's decision to advance the housing project, in his view, "undermined the trust required to conduct the negotiations, I – at the request of President Obama – condemned it immediately."

America’s friendship is not automatic.Today it is unshakable, Tomorrow? Who knows?!

The last thing I would ever want to see is an America that has decided that Europe’s attitude is the right one. Do we really want to start hearing the Jimmy Carters of the world say, “See – I told your so!” “Israel is an oppressive apartheid occupier state determined to usurp the lands of the indigenous population.” “The proof: look at all this construction going on in Arab East Jerusalem.” It won’t matter to them that all this construction is in the Jewish quarter or that it was approved long ago. All people will see is that Israel is usurping more Arab land.

The Vice President did not mince words. He condemned it and repeated it later in meetings with Palestinians and their media.

Why has the Obama Administration taken this turn toward the Palestinian perspective? Why has the President himself not visited Israel?

And why has Israel insulted the Obama Administration right in the middle of a friendly visit? What was gained by it?

This whole thing just disgusts me.