I consider the Obama administration’s recent actions against the Israeli government to be outrageous and a breach of trust.
The timing of the Israeli government’s announcement, while Vice President Joe Biden was in Jerusalem, that 1,600 apartments in East Jerusalem would be built for Jews, 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.
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 Jordan occupied East Jerusalem, it expelled all the Jews living in what was historically the Jewish Quarter, and destroyed every synagogue and 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-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.
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 on 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 U.S. government, ultimately accepted Netanyahu’s offer, albeit grudgingly, and the Palestinian Authority agreed to engage in indirect talks through the American mediator George Mitchell.
Given this history, it was a shock to Israeli and American supporters of Israel to have Biden, a great friend of Israel, make the extraordinary harsh statement he made denouncing the future construction of 1,600 apartments in East Jerusalem.
But even more disturbing than the vice president’s reaction were the comments and implicit threats voiced by Secretary of State Clinton in a telephone conversation she had with Netanyahu.
What is most disturbing about the truly harsh and inflammatory rhetoric of both Biden and Clinton is that, according to the Times, Obama himself may have ordered them to make the statements they made.
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.
There were fence-mending efforts last week when Netanyahu met with Obama, but 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.