President Obama’s recent remarks on Israel and the 1967 lines garnered wide attention both for what he said – most notably, that Israel must remain the same size it was before 1967 – and for what he should have said, but did not – that the Palestinian refugees are an Arab problem, not Israel’s.
Regarding the Eternal Capital of the Jewish People, he said barely a word – but even that word was cause for concern.
In his speech to AIPAC, he did not mention Jerusalem even once, and in his public remarks with Prime Minister Netanyahu a few days before he said only that Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugees are the two “wrenching and emotional issues” that should remain for future negotiations.
Earlier in his speech, Obama said any future Israel-PA agreement must be “based” on the pre-’67 lines “with mutually-agreed land swaps.” Does he really think the PA will ever agree to “swap” the Old City of Jerusalem – and the 250,000 Jews who live there and in other eastern Jerusalem areas – for some arid square kilometers in the Negev??
By coming down so heavily on Israel regarding borders, and by leaving “wrenching and emotional” Jerusalem for the future instead of declaring now that it is a Jewish heirloom, Obama has made it obvious we cannot count on him to support the timeless symbiosis of Jews and Jerusalem.
True, negotiations with the PA appear far off, and we thus have some breathing room on Jerusalem for an unspecified amount of years or months. But clearly we must redouble our efforts to reinforce our historic, national, geographic, security and spiritual bonds with our Holy City – for therein lies our strength in ensuring that it remains Jewish forever. As is often explained on the first Rashi in the Torah, it is nice for non-Jews to know that God gave the Holy Land to the Jews – but it is even more important that we know it.
Netanyahu, for his part, did a nice job regarding Jerusalem when he spoke to Congress. First he emphasized to the world that only Israel has ever enabled universal access to all holy sites, and then received a standing ovation when he thundered, “Jerusalem must never again be divided! Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel!”
He did make one puzzling statement, however: “I know this is a difficult issue for Palestinians. But I believe [that] with creativity and goodwill, a solution can be found.” What type of solution could satisfy the Arab demand for a capital in the city he just said was to remain Israel’s united capital?
“For Jerusalem’s sake,” therefore, let us review some basic facts that bear repeating and emphasizing. Glenn Beck expressed one of them very well recently on his Fox News show: If the PLO gains control of Jerusalem, he said, Jewish visitors will no longer be able to visit the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, or the Mt. of Olives, and Christians won’t be able to get in to see their holy sites.
He did not mention that there are many other places, as well, that the PA expects to receive together with Jerusalem: Gilo, Ramat Eshkol, Ramot, French Hill, and even parts of Sanhedria and Talpiot, to name a few. The PA does not even consider these areas part of Jewish Jerusalem, and from the Arab standpoint, it is no big deal for us to cede them.
Yes, many important areas will remain Israeli under Obama’s plan – but actually visiting them will entail risking being shot at by Hamas/Hizbullah snipers just across the border. These include the new Mamilla Mall, parts of the Light Rail System route, City Hall, the King David and Citadel Hotels, Sultan’s Pool and several entire neighborhoods.
Some will argue that the PA state is to be demilitarized and under international supervision. The impotence of this claim has been proven so many times in recent history – in Lebanon, Somalia, Kosovo, and elsewhere – that we can quickly move on to the next point.
What about world Jewry? We cannot avoid contemplating the following important consequence of dividing Jerusalem: If the Six-Day War brought pride and dignity to Jews around the world, even those who had all but forgotten their nationality and religion, what will happen if we give the Old City away? How will Jews ever be able to lift their heads after having stood aside and agreed to the dismemberment of their precious birthright?
Israeli and Jewish morale and security will suffer a severe blow; suddenly, Jews around the world will “see themselves as grasshoppers – and be seen the same way as well” (based on Numbers 13:33) – boding quite ill for Jewish safety in many countries.
Demographically, as the Arab minority in the Holy City is growing even now, what will it be like when Jews, Heaven forbid, begin leaving in droves because of the deteriorating living conditions and security threats from across the border just yards away? And how emboldened will the Arabs become when they receive, on a silver platter, the pinnacle of their dreams – the Holy City of the Jews?
Thus, from no standpoint at all can the Jewish people entertain the possibility of dividing our Jerusalem. Let us, first of all, remind ourselves of this simple truth – and then our neighbors, newspaper editors, elected representatives, and anyone else with whom we come in contact.
In short: What did you do today to secure Jerusalem?
For more information on how to participate in keeping Jerusalem Jewish, via updates, bus tours of critical parts of Jerusalem, and more, send an e-mail to email@example.com or visit the Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech website at www.keepjerusalem.org.
Chaim Silberstein is president of Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech and the Jerusalem Capital Development Fund.He was formerly a senior adviser to Israel’s minister of tourism. Hillel Fendel is the senior editor at Israel National News/Arutz-7 and an author. Both have lived in Jerusalem and now reside in Beit El.
Their column appears every other week.