The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has criticized the Obama Administration for its persisting in the racist demand that Israel cease proceeding with a program of constructing apartments for Jews in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem, which was announced this week in Jerusalem. The Israel Housing Ministry announced that it was proceeding with 692 housing units for Jews in eastern Jerusalem.
There had been recent signs that the Obama Administration had backed away from its demands earlier in the year in which senior Obama Administration figures including President Barack Obama called for an end to all new Jewish construction in Judea, Samaria eastern Jerusalem. Israel had reportedly arrived at an understanding that excluded from its current ten-month freeze on Jewish construction all such construction in Jerusalem. That understanding had been hailed at the time by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
However, following the Israeli announcement of new construction, the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, issued a statement opposing the new construction and urging the Israelis and Palestinians to resume peace talks (Ethan Bronner, Israel Plans Homes in East Jerusalem, New York Times, December 30, 2009). Similarly, last month, President Obama criticized a program of Jewish construction in Gilo, a Jerusalem suburb, as bad for the prospects of peace talks and very dangerous (Herb Keinon, Amid Gilo row, Obama says settlements dont add safety, Jerusalem Post, November 18, 2009).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, We have consistently opposed a freeze on Jewish construction, not only in any part of Jerusalem, but in Judea and Samaria as well, on the moral and strategic grounds that any 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 arrest terrorists; outlaw terrorist groups; and stop naming schools, streets, sports teams and computer centers after terrorists is the reason peace has not been achieved.
We are therefore critical of the Obama Administration for seeking such a freeze and criticizing Israel for building homes for Jews. Criticizing Jewish construction in Jerusalem, as the Obama Administration has done again, conveys the damaging message 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.
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? Jewish growth in 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.
Quite apart from anything else, a Jewish construction freeze makes no sense. First, such construction never prevented Palestinians negotiating in the past until the Obama Administration publicly demanded an end to Jewish construction. Moreover, the Oslo Accords never required any such freeze on Jews building homes.
Second, if Jewish construction is held to pre-empt negotiations, why are not Arab construction projects in the city, especially illegal ones, also held to pre-empt negotiations?
Third, such a freeze would amount to a unilateral Israeli concession something against which the Gaza withdrawal and its aftermath of increased rocket and terror attacks from Gaza ought to stand as a warning. It is not as if Israel has received any comparable, reciprocal concessions from either the Palestinians or the Arab states, despite belated pleas from the Obama Administration that these occur. The Palestinian have made no concessions and can now continue to sit back and expect America to press its demands on Israel while taking no steps for peace of its own.
We are also critical of the fact that the Obama Administration is making an issue again about Jewish construction in Jerusalem after having arrived at an understanding with Israel that specifically excluded construction in Jerusalem from the Israeli governments current construction freeze in Judea and Samaria. What is the purpose of such an understanding if Israeli decisions made in accordance with it are met with renewed public rebukes?