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An e-newsletter delivering updates and analysis on current issues about Israel and the Middle East conflict

March 23, 2010

Obama unjustly turns the heat on Israel---it's urgent that you tell him: "Jerusalem belongs to Israel!"

Dear Friend of FLAME:

As you know, this past week has been momentous and painful for Israel, since she was attacked by the leader of one of her strongest allies---the United States of America. I hope you'll see fit to rise to Israel's defense. Tensions remain high, and this is a critical time for the U.S.-Israel relationship. But you can make a difference. Please read the following letter and FLAME Hotline article that follows. Then please do your part and write an email to President Obama.

First came an ill-timed announcement a few weeks ago by an Israeli government official that 1,600 housing units in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood of East Jerusalem had received further approval. As it turns out, this announcement coincided with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's (until that moment friendly) visit with Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

The United States, led by President Obama, went ballistic. Pretending that this was the first they had ever heard about building in Israel's capital city, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Clinton and Senior Advisor Axelrod publicly and viciously ripped into Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Suffice it to say, the U.S. government response was outrageous and deserves outspoken response from Israel's supporters. Thankfully, many newspapers, including the Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle have already criticized Obama's shoddy treatment of the United States' strongest Middle East ally.

Let's get some facts straight: Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel since biblical times. After the 1967 war---before which it was controlled by Jordan---it was restored to Israel. Jerusalem has never "belonged" to the Palestinian people (though many Arabs legitimately own property in the city).

Israel has both modernized Jerusalem and restored its historical grandeur---it is again truly a stunning city of light, in which Jews and Arabs live in relative peace. Both Jews and Arabs have the right to own land and live anywhere in Jerusalem. Over the decades, Jews have steadily purchased and developed real estate in eastern parts of the city, and the city itself has annexed unoccupied parcels of land for development.

While Netanyahu recently made a commitment to halt new building in Judea and Samaria (the "West Bank")---a move that was praised effusively by Hilary Clinton---Israel has made no such warrantees about building in its capital. Indeed, Israel has been building continuously in East Jerusalem for more than 40 years.

To understand the geography of Jerusalem, it's useful to view a map (courtesy of the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies) that delineates the city's Jewish and Arab neighborhoods. As you see, there is no clear demarcation between "east" and "west" Jerusalem. There are Jewish neighborhoods surrounded by Arabs and Arab neighborhoods surrounded by Jews. (You will find Ramat Sholmo at the top of the map, a neighborhood where some 15,000 Jews already live, and Bethlehem, just outside Jerusalem, to the south.)

Ramat Shlomo is not a new development, not a disputed sector of Jerusalem and not an Arab section of town. Israel has been building in this part---and all parts---of Jerusalem for many years and has never agreed to cease. Indeed, Jerusalem is the undivided capital of the Jewish state. For President Obama to call the Israel-U.S. relationship into question because of continued building in this neighborhood is based on a false premise, is unfair, and is egregiously ill advised.

This week's FLAME Hotline features a New York Times op-ed by Israel's Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren (whose disrupted speech at U.C. Irvine we featured the Hotline two weeks ago). Oren forcefully argues that Israel remains fully committed to its historic alliance with the United States and to the peace process, despite Palestinian reluctance and backsliding. Notwithstanding President Obama's opinion about construction in Ramat Shlomo, this should not be allowed to harm the robust U.S.-Israel relationship.

In the meantime, I hope you'll contact the President and let him know your opinion about the right of Israel to build anywhere in Jerusalem and the importance of the U.S. relationship with our most loyal ally---Israel.

Best regards,

Jim Sinkinson
Director, FLAME


President Obama has asked for input from U.S. citizens on his Middle East policies. To give him your opinion about his unfair demands on Israel with regard to Jerusalem, please write the President---immediately.

P.P.S. For more background on Jewish rights to Jerusalem, I refer you to a "classic" FLAME publication that was published nearly five years ago, but whose truth remains solid: "Jerusalem: Whose City---Whose "Holy City"---Is It"? This piece was published in newspapers and magazines with more than 5 million circulation, and it debunks the myth that the Palestinians have inalienable rights to Jerusalem or that their ownership of parts of Jerusalem is fundamental to a peace deal with Israel. I hope you'll review this message and pass it on to friends. If you agree that FLAME's outspoken brand of public relations on Israel's behalf is critical, I urge you to support us. I hope you'll consider giving a donation now, as you're able---with $500, $250, $100, or even $18. (Remember, your donation to FLAME is tax deductible.) To donate online, just go to Now more than ever we need your support to ensure that Israel gets the support it needs---from the U.S. Congress, from President Obama, and from the American people.

For Israel and America, a disagreement, not a crisis
By Michael Oren, March 17, 2010, New York Times

Israel and America enjoy a deep and multi-layered friendship, but even the closest allies can sometimes disagree. Such a disagreement began last week during Vice President Joseph Biden's visit to Israel, when a mid- level official in the Interior Ministry announced an interim planning phase in the expansion of Ramat Shlomo, a northern Jerusalem neighborhood. While this discord was unfortunate, it was not a historic low point in United States-Israel relations; nor did I ever say that it was, contrary to some reports.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had no desire during a vice presidential visit to highlight longstanding differences between the United States and Israel on building on the other side of the 1949 armistice line that once divided Jerusalem. The prime minister repeatedly apologized for the timing of the announcement and pledged to prevent such embarrassing incidents from recurring. In reply, the Obama administration asked Israel to reaffirm its commitment to the peace process and to its bilateral relations with the United States. Israel is dedicated to both.

We should not, however, allow peace efforts, or the America-Israel alliance, to be compromised by Israel's policy on Jerusalem. That policy is not Mr. Netanyahu's alone but was also that of former Prime Ministers Ehud Barak, Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Golda Meir—in fact of every Israeli government going back to the city's reunification in 1967. Consistently, Israel has held that Jerusalem should remain its undivided capital and that both Jews and Arabs have the right to build anywhere in the city.

This policy certainly applies to neighborhoods like Ramat Shlomo, which, though on land incorporated into Israel in 1967, are home to nearly half of the city's Jewish population. Isolated from Arab neighborhoods and within a couple of miles of downtown Jerusalem, these Jewish neighborhoods will surely remain a part of Israel after any peace agreement with the Palestinians. Israelis across the political spectrum are opposed to restrictions on building in these neighborhoods, and even more opposed to the idea of uprooting hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens.

Though not uncontested, Israel's policy on Jerusalem did not preclude the conclusion of peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan. Nor did it prevent the Palestinians from negotiating with Israel for more than 15 years after the Oslo accords of 1993. Consistently, Israelis have demonstrated remarkable flexibility as well as generosity to any Arab leader genuinely offering peace.

Indeed, while maintaining the longstanding Israeli position on Jerusalem, the Netanyahu government has unilaterally frozen new construction projects in the West Bank and has removed dozens of roadblocks to allow Palestinian transportation and commerce. The Israeli government acknowledges that the Palestinians have their own stance on Jerusalem, which they will surely raise at the negotiating table.

Unfortunately, Palestinian leaders have balked at face-to-face negotiations, insisting on new preconditions, including the annulment of Israel's Jerusalem policy. Recently they have encouraged violent demonstrations in the Old City, and have named a square in the West Bank city of Ramallah in honor of Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist who in 1978 killed 38 Israeli civilians, among them 13 children, and an American photographer, Gail Rubin. Israel expects the Palestinians to stop such incitement and to cease sponsoring attacks against Israel's legitimacy, like the deeply slanted Goldstone report on the Gaza war.

Despite these Palestinian actions, Israel wants to begin "proximity talks"—indirect negotiations involving United States intermediaries—which we hope will lead to a direct dialogue and a historic and permanent peace. But the only way to negotiate a peace agreement is to begin negotiations.

To achieve peace, Israel is asked to take monumental risks, including sacrificing land next to our major industrial areas and cities. Previous withdrawals, from Lebanon and Gaza, brought not peace but rather thousands of rockets raining down on our neighborhoods.

Though Israel will always ultimately rely on the courage of its own defense forces, America's commitment to Israel's security is essential to give Israelis the confidence to take risks for peace. Similarly, American- Israeli cooperation is vital to meeting the direst challenge facing both countries and the entire world: denying nuclear weapons to Iran.

Israel appreciates President Obama's commitment to a comprehensive peace that guarantees Israel's security and Jewish identity, and provides for a Palestinian state. To ensure that such a state is peaceful, Prime Minister Netanyahu has said that it must be demilitarized and that Palestinians must recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, just as Israel is asked to recognize a future Palestinian state as the nation-state of the Palestinians.

Though we may disagree with the White House at certain stages of the peace process, we must never allow such differences to obscure the purpose we share or to raise doubts about the unbreakable bonds between us.

During his visit, Vice President Biden declared that support for Israel is "a fundamental national self-interest on the part of the United States" and that America "has no better friend in the community of nations than Israel." The people of Israel, in turn, view the strengthening of their relations with the United States as a paramount national objective. Because we share fundamental values - democracy, respect for individual rights and the rule of law—our friendship can sustain occasional disagreements, and remain unassailably solid.


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