Playing with fire
By Haaretz Editorial
The controversy surrounding the plan to create a Jewish enclave in the heart of the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem is not another routine expression of the U.S.-Israel dispute over the settlements. The timing of the decision to build dozens of housing units in the Shepherd Hotel complex, at the height of efforts to reach an agreement on limited construction in the settlements, casts doubt over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's willingness to enter serious negotiations on a final-status agreement. The support he granted the construction project yesterday, despite the vehement condemnations of America and Britain, show he is prepared to endanger Israel's most essential foreign relations for a provocative initiative led by Irving Moskowitz, the patron of right-wing organizations in East Jerusalem.
U.S. President Barack Obama's opposition should not have surprised Netanyahu. The day after Jerusalem Day, when the prime minister declared the city is "Israel's united capital" and would remain forever under Israeli sovereignty, Washington clarified that authority over East Jerusalem would be resolved only through negotiations on a final-status agreement.
Netanyahu's agreement to hold talks based on the principle of "two states for two peoples" must also include readiness to discuss Sheikh Jarrah. Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive issues in the Israeli-Arab conflict. Arab states cannot be expected to normalize relations with Israel while the latter embarrasses them with construction projects in East Jerusalem.
Particularly infuriating is the government's claim that Israel is allowing the Arabs of East Jerusalem to settle in Jewish neighborhoods. Unlike Jewish right-wing organizations - which work to settle Jews in, and take control of, the eastern part of the city - Palestinian residents look to the Jewish areas due to a lack of housing and public services in their own neighborhoods. Since 1967 Israel has expropriated 35 percent of East Jerusalem in order to construct 50,000 housing units in neighborhoods intended primarily for Jews. During the same period, fewer than 600 housing units were built for Palestinian residents with government support.
Construction for Jews in East Jerusalem is inflicting tremendous diplomatic damage on Israel. Netanyahu and Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat are playing with fire under the transparent cover of "normal authorization for private construction." Freezing construction at Shepherd Hotel is no less essential than evacuating the outposts and freezing settlement construction beyond the capital's municipal area.
Who is a self-hating Jew
By Akiva Eldar
Who is to blame for the latest dispute with the United States over the new neighborhood going up in Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah area? Mayor Nir Barkat? Certainly not. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who stood behind him? Ridiculous. Any child knows that everything is the fault of other Jews: Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod, two American administration officials who are inciting President Barack Obama against their own people.
This is not the first time that "self-hating Jews" have given us trouble. In negotiations over the separation of forces agreement in the 1970s, U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger, the scion of a family of Jewish refugees who had escaped from Nazi Germany, earned the anti-Semitic epithet "Jewboy" in Israel. At the end of the 1980s, when president George H.W. Bush dared to argue that the peace process does not jibe with settlement expansion, the Shamir government instigated a campaign against "the 'Jewboy' trio": Dennis Ross, Aaron Miller and Dan Kurtzer. Now it is the turn of Obama's Jewish confidantes to be the scapegoats.
It is easy to imagine what an uproar there would be in Jerusalem if an Arab leader or newspaper dared to claim that an American president was favorable to Israel because of the influence of a Jewish adviser. Netanyahu, who spent many years in the United States, knows very well the extent to which Jewish administration officials in key positions are sensitive to the slightest hint of dual loyalty - to their birthplace and their historic homeland. It turns out that for him, politics bends the iron-clad rule that "all Jews are responsible for one another."
To satisfy the settlers, he permits himself to hurt people whose only sin is that they are trying to promote the goals enshrined in the platform of his senior coalition partner - the Labor Party.
We want our Jews in the administration to be blind to the settlements and deaf to the complaints of the Arabs. Take Elliott Abrams, for example, who was in charge of Middle East affairs in the Bush administration. Abrams, who is identified with the neo-conservative right, made an important contribution to legitimizing a good many dubious Israeli acts. He was an excellent salesman for the "no partner" theory, and the guiding spirit behind the indulgent policy toward the flourishing of settlements. He recently publicly criticized the two-state vision of the president who had hired him, among other things, to promote that vision.
Back during his election campaign Obama made it clear that he did not have to join Likud to be a friend of Israel. Opinion polls in the United States revealed that the views of most Jews are closer to the attitudes of organizations like the Reform movement, American Friends of Peace Now and J Street, which support a two-state solution and eschew Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's doctrine - and above all, largely object to the settlements.
The conversation Obama held with representatives of the Jewish community last week confirms that Netanyahu is drafting them for the wrong war. Even his oldest supporters did not attack the president's position on the settlements, and made do with a complaint about the high profile given to disputes over the issue of natural growth in the settlements. One of the guests at that meeting said that history showed that exposing the differences between the U.S. and Israel does not help to advance peace.
"This was not my reading of the lessons of the last eight years," Obama responded without flinching. Moreover, he said he would not shy away from a willingness to pressure all parties, including Israel, if that is in the best interests of the United States and Israel. Obama did not hesitate to tell his Jewish interlocutors that beyond the special commitment to Israel's security, his policy would be completely even-handed. If it became necessary, Obama said, he would speak to Israelis, as he had done to the Arab and Muslim world, to help them to achieve some kind of self-reflection.
Obama has internalized what his predecessors refused to understand: the traditional supporters of the Israeli right are growing old, or losing their relevance. They are giving way to younger, liberal forces who identify with Obama's values. In the "best" case, Netanyahu's incitement against the "self-hating Jews" will do to them what his whispered comment in the ear of Rabbi Kaduri "those leftists are not Jews" did to Israelis a decade ago - it turned them against him.
East Jerusalem / Israeli roulette
By Yossi Sarid
How do we know Benjamin Netanyahu reads Haaretz? Because if he didn't, he would not know that Sayed Kashua lives in West Jerusalem. But Kashua is an Israeli citizen, conceived and born in the Israeli town of Tira, in the Triangle region.
So what is Netanyahu talking about when he refers to a constant flow of residents, in both directions, between the city's eastern and western parts? Where does he live, and where does he think we live? Have we not been here for the last 42 years, and have we not closely followed the deliberate, systematic effort by official Israeli agencies to take over Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem? To take them over, and push out their regular residents - a kind of ethnic cleansing, with the goal of Judaizing all of Jerusalem and leaving the marketplace empty of Arabs, as in Naomi Shemer's song?
What is Netanyahu talking about when he talks about "the right of every Jew to live anywhere in Jerusalem," as if it were a free city with a free market of voluntary buyers and sellers? In a place where the rights of one people are oppressed, the rights of the other people will also be oppressed. Someday, there will be an agreement, and only then will this mutual right exist.
And what is he talking about, this Netanyahu, when he talks about "private land," which - what can you do? - leaves the government powerless? The truth is known to everyone, including in Washington: Had Ariel Sharon not established a residence in the heart of the Old City, and had Israeli governments not pushed the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva into this area, and had governments not built infrastructure for both and provided security for those who expelled and also inherited - had it not been for all this, not a single Jew would be acting in East Jerusalem as if he owned it.
"Private land." Did not settlers move onto lands registered in the Land Registry in Palestinians' names - yes, every Palestinian also has a name - and build outposts on them? When you really want it, the land suddenly becomes private. And when you really don't want it, it changes its status in the blink of a blind eye.
The excuses given by Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Avigdor Lieberman change in keeping with what is convenient at any given moment: One moment they are stressing "natural growth," the next, they have returned to natural and historic rights. But it is not a natural road that leads to ventures in Jerusalem by American casino moguls, who gamble from afar with our lives. Not a natural road, but the adulterer's road: We demolish and erase and then say, "I have not sinned." America has thus far not sent its emergency rescue forces here to put out the fire, but it has also not spared us all those lunatic Jews who pour oil on the flames.
Just as the settlements on every hill and under every chopped down olive tree were intended from the start to thwart the possibility of an agreement with the Palestinians, the same is true of the new Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem, which have been maliciously thrust like a huge bone down our aching throats. The international community, and many Israelis as well, know the ending without which it will never end: Jerusalem will be divided into two capitals, with Jewish neighborhoods going to the Jews and Arab neighborhoods to the Arabs.
But the gamblers are not interested in an end to the conflict. The Moskowitzes want to continue playing their dice games, playing - always - with fire, and shuffling the cards with their well-known Las Vegas methods: The house wins, and everyone else loses. And Netanyahu is the croupier.