ZOA critical of Obama Admins demand:
No more Jews in E. Jlem
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has praised the Netanyahu government for proceeding with a municipally approved program of Jewish housing construction in Gilo, southern Jerusalem. The Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee authorized yesterday the construction of 900 new housing units in Gilo neighborhood, prompting an expression of dismay from the White House.
The plan approved yesterday, known as the Western Slopes of Gilo project, is the first stage of a much broader expansion of the southern Jerusalem neighborhood. The current expansion is in the direction of the Malha neighborhood. The full plan, which is already included in Jerusalems master plan, will also expand the neighborhood southward. In addition, plans exist for major construction in the area between Gilo and Har Homa and around the neighborhood of Givat Hamatos. Overall, plans are in various stages of approval for 4,000 housing units in Gilo and its environs.
President Barack Obama reacted to the news saying that such moves made it harder to achieve peace in the region and embittered the Palestinians in a way that he said could be very dangerous (Herb Keinon, Amid Gilo row, Obama says settlements dont add safety, Jerusalem Post, November 18, 2009). Also, U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said, I think that we find the Jerusalem Planning Committees decision to move forward on the approval of the approval process for the expansion of Gilo in Jerusalem as dismaying (Ian Kelly, State Department Press Briefing, November 17, 2009).
In response to the American reaction, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat issued a statement saying that Israeli law does not discriminate between Jews and Arabs or between East and West [Jerusalem]. The demand to stop Jewish construction only would not be legal in the United States, either, or in any other enlightened country in the world. The Jerusalem Municipality will continue to enable construction in all parts of the city, for Jews and Arabs, on the basis of one law.
Also Knesset Member, Danny Danon (Likud), who is also Chairman of the World Likud, said, We are telling President Obama the Jewish people have the right to live and to build in Jerusalem… We will build in Jerusalem. That is exactly what we are doing here today. Our duty is to the nation, that chose to deepen settlement in all of Judea and Samaria and of course, Jerusalem. We will discharge our duty even at a price of ignoring Obama and his advisers (Gil Ronen, Cornerstone Laid for New Jewish Neighborhood in Jerusalem, Israel National News, November 17, 2009).
Reports indicate that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu resisted pressure from aides to George Mitchell, the U.S. special envoy to the Middle East, who had been urging him to prevent the neighborhoods expansion. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahus bureau said the authorization was part of a routine bureaucratic planning process. Gilo, the bureaus statement stressed, is part of Jerusalem, no different from any other neighborhood in the city, and construction has gone on there for decades. Moreover, it noted, this is an issue that enjoys broad national support. Officials in Netanyahus added that Netanyahus position on the subject of Jerusalem is well known to the Americans, as he has reiterated it dozens of times: Gilo will be part of the State of Israel under any future settlement, and he therefore welcomes construction there.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein, said, We applaud the Netanyahu government for standing up for Jewish and human rights, as well as honoring internal Israeli decisions, by proceeding with a scheduled program of construction within Jerusalem, Israels eternal capital. It is only right that this should be so and that sovereign Israeli decisions are not made on the strength of the extraneous opinions of other governments. It is of the essence to sovereignty that, at the end of the day, the government, not someones else government, decides what should happen.
Why cannot 300,000 Jews live among 1.5 million Palestinian Arabs in Judea and Samaria while 1.2 million Arabs live among 6 million Jews in Israel?
The aim to bring about a Jewish construction freeze lends credence to the utterly false notion that Jews living in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem pose an obstacle to a peace agreement with the Palestinians when, in fact, 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. It also conveys the damaging message that Israel accepts the view that Jews have no right to live in these areas, the historical and religious heartland of the Jewish people. It lends credence to the view that Jews should be banned from living there. It lends credence to the false notion that peace can be built by making these territories judenrein.
We also must recall that there were no Jews in these territories when they were under illegal Jordanian occupation (1948-67), yet there was no peace and no Arab acceptance of Israel. To accede to this proposal for a freeze harms Israels just cause, harms Jews living in these territories and assists Palestinian and Arab propaganda efforts to distract focus from the real issue of Palestinian extremism and non-acceptance of Israel which are the root of the conflict.
Jewish growth in Judea and Samaria and 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 no additional Jews moving to these areas, while having no problem with Arabs doing so, is simply an anti-Jewish, racist position. It would remain inappropriate even if the prospect of genuine peace negotiations with a truly peaceful Palestinian partner were possible.
Last but not least, we are deeply disturbed by one particular aspect of President Obamas words. That is his statement that Israel shouldnt be doing this because it can be very dangerous a veiled reference to Arab violence. Resort to violence and terror, and even the threat of these, has been a time-honored Palestinian method of pressuring Israel into not exercising its sovereign power. Palestinian leaders have repeatedly and publicly threatened Israeli leaders if Israel takes certain actions. President Obama, by claiming that additional Jews moving into eastern Jerusalem could be very dangerous is in some sense expressing the belief that this should be an expected and almost understandable Palestinian Arab response. He should instead by warning Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinians that they dare not resort to violence, even if they disagree with certain Israeli actions. President Obama should clearly state that all disagreements must be resolved through negotiations not violence, as Palestinians agreed to in every signed agreement with Israel since Oslo. He should have further demanded that Abbas must deal very harshly with any violence that might break out and that the U.S. will support strong Israeli responses if there is any terrorism whatsoever.