Obama Ignores Hamas Buying Buildings In Eastern Jerusalem
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has applauded the recent statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejecting the Obama Administrations demand that Israel not proceed with a project to build 20 residential apartments in eastern Jerusalems Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. Prime Minister Netanyahu said that Jerusalem is a united city in which Jews may live wherever they chose and that this is not subject to negotiation or appeal.
In yesterdays Israeli Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, I would like to re-emphasize that the united Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people and of the State of Israel. Our sovereignty over it cannot be challenged; this means inter alia that residents of Jerusalem may purchase apartments in all parts of the city. This has been the policy of all Israeli governments and I would like to say that it is indeed being implemented because in recent years hundreds of apartments in Jewish neighborhoods and in the western part of the city have been purchased by or rented to Arab residents and we did not interfere. This says that there is no ban on Arabs buying apartments in the western part of the city and there is no ban on Jews buying or building apartments in the eastern part of the city. This is the policy of an open city, an undivided city that has no separation according to religion or national affiliation. We cannot accept the idea that Jews will not have the right to live and purchase in all parts of Jerusalem. I can only describe to myself what would happen if someone would propose that Jews could not live in certain neighborhoods in New York, London, Paris or Rome. There would certainly be a major international outcry. Accordingly, we cannot agree to such a decree in Jerusalem. This has been the policy of Israeli governments over the years and it is also the policy of our Government (PM Netanyahu’s Remarks at the Start of the Weekly Cabinet Meeting, Prime Ministers Office [Jerusalem], July 19, 2009).
Meanwhile, Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin has also told the Cabinet that the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its security services are engaged in widespread efforts to keep Palestinians from selling land in Jerusalem to Jews. He also said that Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi of Qatar has allocated $21 million to Hamas activists to buy buildings and establish infrastructure in Jerusalem.
The Obama Administrations objections to the Jewish construction project were first voiced by senior State Department officials at a meeting with Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren last Thursday, in response to a request by PA President Mahmoud Abbas. The officials complained that the construction would change the neighborhood’s demographic balance and harm its Palestinian residents. Oren responded that the land in question was privately owned, and the project has received all the necessary permits from the Jerusalem municipality.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, The ZOA is appalled that the Obama administration is backing Palestinian demands for preventing Jews from building in and moving to eastern Jerusalem. We are also concerned at the blatant inconsistency of the Obama Administrations approach. Last year, when campaigning for the presidency, Barack Obama called for Jerusalem to remain the undivided capital of Israel. The next day, he retracted that statement, but then insisted that the issue of Jerusalem was one for final status talks between Israel and the PA. Now, however, he is not even adhering to that watered-down position: instead, he is weighing in on the matter on behalf of the racist Palestinian demand that Jews be barred from moving into eastern Jerusalem, a territory the PA claims for itself and wishes to see part of a judenrein Palestinian state.
In this context, it is astounding that the State Department would tell Ambassador Oren that Jewish construction in eastern Jerusalem would change the neighborhoods demographic balance and harm its Palestinian residents. This is the sort of racist language that was once used here in America in support of a policy of excluding African-Americans from white neighborhoods. It is an especial disgrace that such an approach should have obtained the support of President Obama who, as our first African-American president, should have understood better than anyone the racist nature of such a position. It is not a position that the U.S. should be taking and we urge the Obama Administration to drop its support for it.
We also find it disturbing that the Obama Administration has had nothing to say about the fact that a terrorist movements like Hamas, funded by wealthy Islamist extremists like Sheikh Qaradawi, has been busily buying up apartments in eastern Jerusalem. However, when peaceful Jews seek to move into an apartment or build a home in eastern Jerusalem, or when a project to build a mere twenty apartments is approved by the Israeli government, the Obama Administration makes a point to protest and pressure Israel over the matter.
The ZOA applauds Prime Minister Netanyahu for forthrightly reaffirming the unity of Jerusalem and giving unequivocal voice to the right of Jews to live in any part of the city. It would be a moral travesty to accept that people, simply because they are Jews, are to be barred from moving into any part of Jerusalem, which is why the Obama Administration is to be criticized for urging such a policy. The Israeli government did well in repudiating this demand, which also amounts to interference in Israels internal affairs and municipal planning. For Israel to agree to such demands would be a strategic error which would in any case not lead to progress towards a real peace.
To agree to a construction freeze in Jerusalem would lend credence to the utterly false notion that Jews living there pose an obstacle to a peace agreement with the Palestinians. This is nonsense: Palestinian Arab refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state, to fight and end terrorism and to end the incitement to hatred and murder against her is the reason peace has not been achieved.
We also must recall that there were no Jews in eastern Jerusalem when that portion of the city was under illegal Jordanian occupation (1948-67), yet there was no peace and no Arab acceptance of Israel. Jerusalem today is a free city in which there are no restrictions on freedom of religion. However, when the eastern half of the city was under Jordanian Arab control, the lives of its Christian minority were made miserable, churches could not be built or repaired, Christian schools were compelled to teach the Quran and about 70 percent of Christians actually emigrated. Moreover, Jews were prohibited from visiting and praying in their holy sites in the city let us remember that all the great religious and historical Jewish sites are in the eastern half of the city, not in the newer, western half despite international agreements signed by Jordan permitting them to do so.
For Israel to have acceded to the Obama Administrations demand would have played into Palestinian and Arab propaganda efforts to distract focus from the real issues of Palestinian extremism and non-acceptance of Israel which are the root of the conflict. It would have conveyed a clear message on Israels part that it accepts the view that Jews have no right to live in eastern Jerusalem, where Jews have been a majority for many years, in a city that has had a Jewish majority since the mid-19th century and which is mentioned hundreds of times in the Hebrew Bible but never once in the Quran. It to Jerusalem that Jews turn in prayer, not Mecca, and the aspiration Next year in Jerusalem is uttered by Jews at every Passover seder. How perverse that President Obama is now the one saying in effect, Next year, no further Jews should be allowed to live in eastern Jerusalem.
Jewish growth in eastern Jerusalem has a fundamental legitimacy and poses no obstacle to a true peace if Palestinians are ready for one, so the Obama Administrations insistence on a construction freeze would remain inappropriate even if the prospect of genuine peace negotiations with a truly peaceful Palestinian partner were possible.