There's been a lot of talk and news articles about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Washington this week. About the diplomatic snub the Obama Administration handed the Israeli head of state - no official reception; no welcome by the President; no photos of the President with Netanyahu - all unprecedented snubs for a visiting head of state. About the aggressively combative position staked out by the President, demanding major unilateral concessions by the Israeli government to Palestinian demands.
The frosty welcome in Washington was in response to Israel's announcement two weeks ago, while VP Joe Biden was in Israel, that Israel would erect 1,600 new housing units for its citizens in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of East Jerusalem. Then, hours before Netanyahu arrived in Washington, a report surfaced that Israel had approved additional housing units in East Jerusalem.
Denouncement of the new settlements was swift and strident. Biden, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and the President all blasted Israel's decision. United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, told the Security Council that “all settlement activity in occupied territory is illegal."
Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 war, but its annexation was never internationally recognized. The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state and demand a halt to Israeli expansion in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, before Israeli-Palestinian negotiations can start.
So, where is this East Jerusalem that is such a hot button? Across the Jordan River? Sort of like New Jersey to New York City?
How about across the street? A map appeared in the New York Times on March 23 but I can't get the link to work here.
East Jerusalem would not only encircle the entire Old City of Jerusalem and Temple Mount - including the Western Wall, the most sacred place in Jerusalem to devout Jews - but it also would include the Kidron Valley, the Mount of Olives, Gethsemane, the City of David (the hill where Jerusalem was first settled)... about 25% of the land currently within the Jerusalem city boundary.
This is the area where Israel is deciding to build more housing. It's in the middle of Jerusalem! Sort of like Mexico claiming East Harlem as its capital (to escape all the violence south of the border), then complaining because the New York City Council approved a new apartment building - and the rest of the world agreeing with the Mexicans. And Palestine isn't even a country.
Listen to what Prime Minister Netanyahu said to the supporters of Israel at the AIPAC dinner:
"But there’s one thing I’ll never compromise on and that one thing is Israel’s security. Let me express to you the difficulty of trying to explain Israel’s security predicament to the citizens of the United States – a country that is 500 times the size of Israel. I thought how I could best bring it home. I ask you to imagine that the territory of the United States was compressed down to the size of New Jersey. You squeeze the United States down to the size of New Jersey and next you put on New Jersey’s northern border an Iranian terror proxy called Hezbollah which fires 6,000 rockets into that small state. Then imagine that this terror proxy amasses another 50,000 rockets to fire at you. I’m not finished. You take New Jersey’s southern border and you put another Iranian terror proxy on it and you call it Hamas. And it too fires 6,000 rockets into your territory while smuggling even more lethal weapons into its territory.
"You think you’d feel a little vulnerable? You think you’d expect some understanding from the international community when you have to defend yourselves? I think any fair-minded person would recognize that we face security problems and challenges unlike any other nation on earth."
Netanyahu's speech was a long one. He called on the Palestinians to come to the peace table. He outlined a laundry list of things the Israeli government is doing and has done to promote the peace process. And he asked, "What have the Palestinians done?" He also made the following statement:
"The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 years ago and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today. Jerusalem is not a settlement. It’s our capital."
Israel's fragile security will never be improved by agreeing to a Palestinian capital not on its doorstep, but in its living room. The possibility of peace in the Middle East will never be enhanced by the US, the UN or anyone else trying to bully the Israelis into surrendering the Old City of Jerusalem, Temple Mount, the Western Wall ... one-quarter of Jerusalem ... into the hands of a putative Palestinian state which as yet refuses to admit that Israel even exists.
The Obama Administration needs to wake up. The United States has one true ally in the Middle East. And we should stop beating them up for building some apartments in their own back yard.