U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Israel this week on a mission that promised no groundbreaking news. His aides called his Middle East excursion just a “listening tour,” and certainly not one featuring any new grand plans for peace.
True, it was relieving to hear the PA’s announcement just before the visit that it had agreed to put off suing Israel at the International Criminal Court on charges of “settlement building.” But though this decision was disguised as a “goodwill gesture” to Kerry, the PA likely does not have any real interest in endangering its standing with the United States and others by actually bringing Israel to court.
Most specifically, the PA leadership is concerned about possible Israeli plans to construct a new Jewish neighborhood in the area known as E-1, across the highway from Maaleh Adumim and just east of Jerusalem.
Israel, for its part, knows that developing E-1 is critical for its own existence. The new Jewish location will not only protect areas of Jewish eastern Jerusalem, but will also save the city of Maaleh Adumim (population: over 40,000) from becoming a Jewish enclave surrounded by PA-populated territory.
Though Israel suffered intense international criticism for its announced plans to build in E-1, Prime Minister Netanyahu has not taken actual steps to do so. In fact, he told his Cabinet months ago that he was not about to embark on actually “building” E-1 but would rather simply continue zoning and planning the neighborhood.
We at KeepJerusalem.org feel the continued lack of genuine progress in building E-1 is a danger to regional peace. The project was announced in response to the upgrading of the PA’s status in the UN, despite the unchanged PLO charter that still calls for Israel’s destruction. Failure to carry through on building E-1 thus encourages the PA populace to believe that its bid to destroy Israel is a realistic one.
In honor of Kerry’s visit to the region, the PA announced yet again its strange position regarding the resumption of negotiations with Israel. It stated that that it will not enter into such talks until Israel ceases all housing construction – not only in Judea and Samaria, but also in the areas of Jerusalem liberated in the Six-Day War, such as Ramat Eshkol, Gilo, Pisgat Ze’ev, and much more.
Almost unbelievably, the PLO also insists that it will not meet with Israeli negotiators until Israel releases all Arab terrorist prisoners imprisoned before the signing of the Oslo Accords. The PLO does not explain by what right it demands that convicted criminals, lawfully deemed to have murdered or maimed Israelis, or attempted to directly or indirectly murder or maim them, be freed from prison. A similar demand of any other country would be laughed out of town.
These demands were nixed by none other than President Obama. During his visit to Israel and neighboring countries two weeks ago, Obama said it would be pointless to set conditions simply for the holding of talks – for then what would the talks be about?
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In case there were any doubts regarding the lengths to which the Human Rights Council – a United Nations body – was willing to go to express its anti-Israel bias, note the following recommendation it made in its 22nd Session just over a month ago:
“Israel must…cease all settlement activities without preconditions. In addition it must immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers from the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” Note that the UN body is thus actually calling upon Israel to uproot, expel and resettle the hundreds of thousands of Jews living in Ramat Eshkol, N’vei Yaakov, the Old City of Jerusalem, Maaleh Adumim, Ariel, Kedumim, Beit El, and dozens of other locations.
In addition, by calling these areas “occupied’ and “Palestinian,” it is taking a very controversial and one-sided stand on a matter of intense dispute among scholars. “Occupied” implies that Israel conquered the lands from their sovereign government – but Jordan, which controlled Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem from 1949 to 1967, was far from sovereign. In fact, its rule over these areas was recognized by only two countries in the entire world: Great Britain and Pakistan. Even the Arab League did not approve of Jordan’s annexation of these areas.