In the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, there is a compound that was legally purchased by American businessman Irving Moskowitz in 1985. All papers are in order. The site originally belonged to the Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, a Nazi collaborator and mentor of Yasser Arafat, and later became the Shepherd Hotel. Plans now are to replace the hotel with a housing complex of some 20 to 30 apartments, to be purchased by Jewish families.
But Mahmoud Abbas was disturbed about these plans, because this would “shift the demographic balance” in the city. Which is to say that he covets eastern Jerusalem and wants to see it stay predominantly Arab.
(Clarification: It is predominantly Arab not because this was the historical situation, but because Jordan rendered the area Judenrein from 1949-67.)
Reports are that Abbas complained to the Americans. And what happens when Abbas protests? Seems that the American president jumps. Michael Oren, Israeli ambassador to the US, was summoned to the State Department and told that the Obama administration wanted us to stop the building.
“Nothing doing,” Oren told them.
What’s important here is that, not only will Israel refuse, but that PM Netanyahu was reportedly incensed about this, saying that Obama had “crossed a red line.” The issue here is very clear:
Jerusalem united is undisputedly our sovereign capitol. Jews are allowed to build, and live, anywhere in the city. “This has always been Israel’s policy and this is the policy of the current government,” declared the prime minister.
“…There is no prohibition against Arab residents buying apartments in the west of the city and there is no prohibition barring the city’s Jewish residents from buying or building in the east of the city. That is the policy of an open city that is not divided.”
“Thousands of Arab families build houses in Jerusalem, in the [primarily Jewish] neighborhoods of Neve Yaakov and French Hill, and I’ve never heard any comment on the matter from the United States or Europe. I’m trying to put this delicately: It would be very strange if Jews were discriminated against in Jerusalem of all places, especially in light of the fact that it is not an isolated site; this is the heart of the city, very close to the Government Compound and Israel Police Headquarters.”
Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein said,
“A demand to cease construction in a neighborhood situated only several meters from the Hebrew University proves how dangerous it is to be dragged into a debate on settlement freeze, which will lead us to a total demand to freeze our normal lives throughout the entire State of Israel.”
The municipality of Jerusalem also weighed in on this issue, with a statement that reflects a principle of enormous significance:
“The Local Planning Committee of the Jerusalem Municipality operates according to equal criteria for all issues of construction permits, without regard to race, creed, gender, religion, or national identity of the resident or property owner.”
Imagine if Israel tried to prevent Arabs from building legally in the city. It seems that the world finds this acceptable only where Jews are concerned. And the Palestinians deign to refer to Israel as apartheid?
The YNET news site has an article on this issue in which it quotes Prime Minister Netanyahu:
“Our sovereignty in Jerusalem is indisputable. We can’t agree to such a demand in east Jerusalem.”
“I wish to make this clear – the united Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people in the State of Israel,” he added.
Leo Rennert writes in The American Thinker
In a Washington Post op-ed intended to catch President Obama’s attention, former Israeli Prime MInister Ehud Olmert urges the U.S. administration to stop obsessing about Jewish settlements and instead focus on Palestinian leader Mahmdoud Abbas’s obstructionism in rejecting any realistic two-state solution.
By lining up with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu against Obama’s misbegotten diplomacy, Olmert demolishes a central tenet of the president’s view of Israel’s approach to peacemaking. Obama has made no secret of the fact that he views Netanyahu’s Likud party as the main Israeli obstacle to the peace process. His administration calculated that, if Likud and Netanyahu could be marginalized — in Israel as well as among most American Jews — Obama would be able to get greater concessions from Israel to move toward a two-state solution.
Olmert’s article demolishes this scenario by making it clear that it’s not just Likud that opposes a total freeze on construction in existing settlements, but that this is a widely held view across the entire Israeli spectrum. Olmert’s Kadima party is just as much at odds with Obama on this as is the Likud.
It’s also a signal to American supporters of Israel, including the Jewish community, that it’s time to press Obama to focus on Abbas’s rejectionism as the main obstacle — not Netanyahu.
All of this leads us to the inevitable conclusion that the US should stop meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign country. The US would never interfere in the internal decisions of any other country. What gives it the right to do so in Israel?