J Post blog
Posted by Ed Koch
I consider the Obama administration’s recent actions against the Israeli government to be outrageous and a breach of trust. I refer to the denunciations by Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other administration officials. The world knows what happened; nevertheless, I will try to put it into context.â€¨â€¨
Biden was in Jerusalem to convey to the Israelis and the world that the United States government is committed to protecting and assuring the security of Israel. While he was there, an Israeli government minister announced that the Israeli government had authorized the construction of 1,600 apartments in east Jerusalem, to be occupied by Jews. Currently, 280,000 Jews live in east Jerusalem, and these apartments were to be added to an existing complex, built on land owned by Jews. About 250,000 Jews live on the West Bank outside of Jerusalem.â€¨â€¨
The timing of the announcement was unfortunate and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized for it, but it did not mark any change in the Israeli government’s policy. That policy is and has long been to allow construction of homes for Jews in east Jerusalem.
â€¨â€¨Now a little history. In 1947, the United Nations passed a resolution authorizing the creation of a Jewish state within the British Mandate of Palestine. After it declared independence in 1948, Israel was immediately attacked by the combined armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Although Israel repelled the attack, Jordan conquered east Jerusalem, separating it from its western half. Ultimately, a cease-fire was arranged by the UN, and for the next 19 years, until 1967, Jordan occupied east Jerusalem, including the old city, which historically had been the capital of King David’s ancient kingdom.
In 1967, the Arab armies of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria again sought to destroy the State of Israel, but Israel prevailed in six days and conquered the Jordanian-held east Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip. During the 19 years that Jordan occupied east Jerusalem, it expelled all of the Jews living in what was historically the Jewish Quarter, and literally destroyed every synagogue, as well as the homes of the Jews. When Israel reunited all of Jerusalem, Jews were, of course, allowed to live in any part of the city, and today, more than a quarter of a million Jews live in east Jerusalem. Numerous Arabs live there as well.
For quite some time, and certainly since the Gaza War, the Palestinian Authority has broken off direct negotiations with Israel, which had been ongoing since about 1993, in an effort to create two states, one Jewish and one Palestinian, living side-by-side in peace. This so-called two-state solution always seemed out of reach, notwithstanding the efforts of Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to jumpstart negotiations.â€¨â€¨
President Obama has sought to revive the negotiations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. He called on Netanyahu to assist by committing Israel to stop building new apartments in east Jerusalem and new settlements on the West Bank. In a move that Hillary Clinton, according to The New York Times, praised as “unprecedented,” Netanyahu agreed to a ten-month settlement moratorium in the West Bank. However, he refused to stop Jews from living in any part of east Jerusalem, which is considered by Israelis to be an inseparable part of their capital. Both the Palestinian Authority and the US government ultimately accepted Netanyahu’s offer, albeit grudgingly, and the Palestinian Authority agreed to engage in indirect talks through the American mediator George Mitchell.â€¨â€¨
Given this history, it was a shock to the Israeli and American supporters of Israel to have Joe Biden, a great friend of Israel, make the extraordinarily harsh statement he made denouncing the future construction of 1,600 apartments in east Jerusalem. The vice president’s condemnation was even more baffling because, as the Times of March 12 reported, “He spent most [of the previous day] expressing his personal devotion to Israel, as well as the Obama administration’s ‘iron-clad commitment to Israel’s security.’” As someone high in political life once said to me after I mentioned to him the violation of his iron-clad commitment to me on a subject involving the mass transit fares in New York City, “Next time, get it in steel. Iron breaks.”â€¨â€¨
But even more disturbing than the vice president’s reaction were the comments and implicit threats voiced by Hillary Clinton in a telephone conversation she had with Netanyahu, described in the Times of March 12. “In a tense, 43-minute phone call on Friday morning, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel’s plan for new housing units for Jews in East Jerusalem sent a ‘deeply negative signal’ about Israeli-American relations.”
â€¨â€¨Under President Clinton and George W. Bush, Israeli prime ministers have offered the Palestinians a state of their own on virtually the entire West Bank and Gaza, with land swaps to compensate for any portion of the West Bank that would remain in Israel, but those offers were rejected by the Palestinians.â€¨â€¨
What is most disturbing about the truly harsh and inflammatory rhetoric of both Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton directed at the government of Israel, is that it is speculated President Obama himself may have ordered Biden and Clinton to make the statements they made. The Times of March 16 reported, “…the President was outraged by the announcement of 1,600 housing units in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in East Jerusalem during Mr. Biden’s visit, administration officials said. Mr. Obama was deeply involved in the strategy and planning for Mr. Biden’s visit and orchestrated the response from Mr. Biden and Mrs. Clinton after it went awry, these officials said.” President Obama and his administration’s overly harsh public reaction to the construction in east Jerusalem appears to have emboldened Israel’s enemies and provided a cover for their extremist views. It has also created a serious crisis of confidence among the Israeli public that it can depend on this administration for its security.â€¨ â€¨
There will be an effort this week when Netanyahu meets with Obama to mend fences. There will be huggy-kissy pictures with Hillary, and handshakes by Bibi Netanyahu with Joe Biden and the president, but the relations will never be the same again. Humpty Dumpty has been broken and the absolute trust needed between allies is no longer there. How sad it is for the supporters of Israel who put their trust in President Obama.
Lori Lowenthal Marcus