By Moshe Phillips and Benyamin Korn
The Obama administration officials’ vulgar treatment of Israel’s prime minister is troubling. But the policies behind their vulgarity – and reckless – are far worse.
Two officials were involved: one who used the epithet to describe Israel’s leader, and a second who agreed with the obscene remark. The point they were both making is that they consider Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “coward” because he won’t make the concessions that they believe might lead to peace.
What concessions, exactly? President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry, and other senior administration officials have said time and again that they want Israel to retreat to the 1967 armistice lines and permit the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. That would, of course, reduce Israel to just nine miles wide at its vulnerable mid-section, near Netanya. It would also almost certainly lead to a hostile Arab state — whether nationalist or Islamist — in Israel’s heartland.
What about Jerusalem? The White House and the State Department are very careful to refrain from saying explicitly that they want to redivide Jerusalem. They don’t say that out loud because they know it would infuriate millions of pro-Israel Christian and Jewish voters (not to mention almost all Israelis).
But “redivide Jerusalem” is exactly what the Obama administration is implying every time it condemns Israel for building apartments in so-called “East Jerusalem” and claims that such construction endangers peace. But the only peace it would endanger is one in which that part of Jerusalem is expected to be given to the Palestinians.
Otherwise, why would the White House be so upset if apartments are built in Ramat Shlomo, an Orthodox neighborhood in northern Jerusalem, or Gilo, a section of southern Jerusalem? The problem with Ramat Shlomo and Gilo is they are situated slightly beyond the old 1967 line.
Israelis naturally find the Obama administration’s characterization of such areas as “illegal settlements” laughable. Gilo is not a collection of trailers on some wind-swept hill. It is a modern, urban locale with more than 30,000 residents. Anyone who has driven in Jerusalem knows that Ramat Shlomo, Gilo, and the other neighborhoods denounced by the U.S. administration are physically indistinguishable from the rest of the city.
But the White House and State Department refuse to accept this reality. They are locked into a rigid ideological formula, according to which the 1967 line is sacrosanct and anything beyond it is “illegal” and “occupied.” And anything that is illegal and occupied, is expected to be surrendered.
There is, of course, nothing sacred about the 1967 armistice line. It was never an official border. It was simply the furthest point to which Jordanian troops managed to advance in the 1948 war. The Jordanian aggression in 1948 was illegal. The Jordanian occupation of the eastern part of Jerusalem, including the Old City, from 1948 to 1967 was illegal. The Jordanian destruction of 57 synagogues in the Old City during the 1950s and 1960s was illegal. Jordan’s use of tombstones from the Mount of Olives cemetery as latrines in Jordanian Army barracks was illegal (not to mention repulsive).
When Israel won the 1967 war and reunited Jerusalem, it was correcting an outrageous historical injustice. Decent people everywhere should celebrate that the city has, since 1967, been ruled by a democratic government that respects the rights of all religions and safeguards the holy sites of all faiths.
And, indeed, the United States Congress has recognized it since 1992, when the House of Representatives and the Senate unanimously adopted Senate Concurrent Resolution 113, celebrating “the reunification of Jerusalem.” That resolution asserted that Jerusalem “must remain an undivided city.”
Perhaps the Obama administration should be more frank about its true aim of re-dividing Jerusalem. Perhaps it should honestly acknowledge that it regards all construction beyond the 1967 line as illegal because it wants to Israel to give those areas to the Palestinians. xxx Perhaps they should say it plainly, and then see how it plays out among Israel’s voters, and America’s.
For here, in plain English, is what redividing Jerusalem would mean: The new capital of “Palestine” would include the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, the Mount of Olives cemetery, and most or all of the following “new city” Jerusalem neighborhoods: Ramot, French Hill, Gilo, Neve Yaakov, Ramat Shlomo, Har Homa, and Givat Hamatos.
And that would be truly obscene.
[Moshe Phillips and Benyamin Korn are members of the board of the Religious Zionists of America.]