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White House Spouts Sound and Fury about New Jerusalem Housing Developments. (You Know: "Settlements.")
Dear Friend of FLAME:
I had the good fortune to dine last week in friends' Sukkah to celebrate Succot, the Jewish harvest holidays. One of the guests, a woman aged 30 who had been brought up quite Jewishly and visited Israel several times, commented that the new settlements in "East Jerusalem" were causing big problems for Israel.
I quickly, but gently corrected her: "They aren't settlements, they're residential developments in a Jerusalem neighborhood." She replied, "Oh, are they on undeveloped land?"
This exchange again underscores the battle we fight daily in trying to keep up with the mainstream media's perversion of the facts about Israel.
The woman in the Sukkah was referring to housing units that had been planned and approved for the Jerusalem suburb of Givat Hamatos by a Jerusalem Municipality planning committee in December 2012. The city just now formally approved the site for bids and construction to begin.
The housing units are specially designated for Arabs and Jews, and they will be built on open, city-owned land on the eastern edge of Jerusalem. No Arabs are being displaced, and Arabs do not own any of the building site. (Please note also that there's no such thing as East Jerusalem. It's all one city---east, west, north and south---the undivided capital of Israel.)
So why do the media refer to them as settlements? So why is the White House agitated?
As we have noted here in past issues, the mainstream media cover Israel from a playbook that assigns Israel the role of a Goliath that oppresses the poor, weak Palestinians. The fact that Mahmoud Abbas has never agreed to recognize the Jewish state nor accepted peace offers that would give the Palestinians 98% of the land they have asked for is never mentioned. Thus, new residences built in Jerusalem for Jews (and Arabs) are to the media "settlements"---conjuring renegade Jewish fanatics throwing up ad hoc encampments on Arab land.
As for the White House, that is the subject of this week's FLAME Hotline article, a short, tight critique of the administration's rush to judgment on this issue and in the process making itself look foolish. To flesh out the quote from "Macbeth," it is "a tale/ Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/ Signifying nothing." The article is written by one of our favorite commentators, Elliott Abrams, a fellow at the Council for Foreign Relations and author of the blog, Pressure Points.
Abrams' piece provides valuable insight into the pettiness Mr. Obama has sunk to when it comes to Israel. Most of all, it gives you the facts you'll need to explain Israel's residential expansion in its capital to friends and colleagues and write letters to the editor on this matter. Please also pass this issue along to your contacts, and use social media to refer your friends to it.
Thanks for your support of FLAME and of Israel!
The President and the New Housing in Jerusalem
by Elliott Abrams, Council on Foreign Relations, Pressure Points, October 2, 2014
In December 2012, the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee announced a major new housing project. In an area of east Jerusalem called Givat Hamatos, 2600 units would be built. Of some significance, half would be set aside for Jewish residents and half for Arab Jerusalemites. Last week, just before the New Year's holiday, the deputy mayor of Jerusalem signed an order described as "symbolic," continuing official approvals of the work.
(Background: Givat Hamatos means "Airplane Hill" in Hebrew, and was named that after an Israeli jet crash landed there in the 1967 war. It is mostly barren land, and has been used in the past to house poor Ethiopian and Russian immigrant families. More details here.)
This became an international incident thanks to the clever folks at the Israeli group called "Peace Now." The fact of the deputy mayor's action had been in the press but attracted little notice until Peace Now gave it great publicity–which played right into the Obama-Netanyahu meeting. This is what led the President to order his spokesman to say the following:
"This development will only draw condemnation from the international community. It also would call into question Israel's ultimate commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians."
Jerusalem's mayor Nir Barkat responded:
"I will not freeze construction for anyone in Israel's capital. Discrimination based on religion, race or gender is illegal in the United States and in any other civilized country. 2,600 apartments in Givat HaMatos that we approved two years ago will enable more young people from all sectors and religions to live in Jerusalem and build their future here, thereby strengthening the capital of Israel. We will not apologize for that."
The administration reaction is curious given that this is not new news, given that Arabs and Jews will live in this housing, and given the remarkably negative speech that Palestinian president Abbas gave to the UN last week. The State Department rejected that speech as "offensive" and "deeply disappointing." I suppose it's possible that the President thought this had been too tough, and now wanted to "balance" things by tough words for Israel.
But if this was a victory of sorts for Peace Now, it was no victory for the Obama administration or for those who seek peace negotiations. Building new housing for Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem does not in fact "call into question Israel's ultimate commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians," the foolish and extreme phrase of both the White House spokesman and the State Department. Mr. Obama asked Netanyahu to "think outside the box" during their meeting. But calling upon Israel to stop housing construction in its capital city is not realistic. And what's worse is that Washington apparently thinks housing construction for Arabs is fine and only condemns new housing for Jews; and by singling out neighborhoods appears to be saying that certain neighborhoods must not be allowed to become mixed ones and must remain free of Jewish residents. If that's "out of the box" thinking, let's get back in the box.
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