Palestinian Arabs attack Israel, violate Oslo Accords and reject peace negotiations, yet once again Israeli settlements receive the blame
Dear Friend of FLAME:
The Palestinian Arabs, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, violated the Oslo Accords when they went to the U.N. General Assembly a few weeks ago to pursue their bid for statehood. You might think this would cause some international outrage, but in fact the reaction was completely the opposite.
Despite all efforts of President Obama, a majority of the world's countries, including most of those making up the European Union, voted in favor of upgrading the status of the Palestinians to that of an "observer state.”
Appropriately, in light of the broken Oslo treaty, Israel within a few days approved the construction of 3,000 additional housing units in Jerusalem and settlements in the E1 sector of the West Bank. The development of the E1 corridor, which is almost entirely unpopulated, would directly connect the suburb of Ma'ale Adumim in the West Bank, where 40,000 Israelis already live, to Jerusalem. Currently, Ma'ale Adumim is only connected to Jerusalem by a single road, which is a security risk because this road could easily be blocked, thus cutting it off from Jerusalem.
Efraim Inbar, professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, has stressed the strategic location of Ma'ale Adumim. He states that it "serves as the linchpin in establishing an effective line of defense along the Jordan Valley against aggression from the east.” Thus, the E1 corridor is important both to the security of Ma'ale Adumim itself, as well as the wider security of Israel.
This Israeli action caused outrage around the world, with Israeli ambassadors in several European countries being summoned for an explanation.
However, the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, explained why such outrage is inappropriate:
"When the world talks about a freeze in Jerusalem, I ask, a freeze on what? On the billions we invest in east Jerusalem? Should we stop construction for Arabs, Christians or Jews? Or does someone mean that when an entrepreneur approaches me, I should, heaven forbid, ask him what religion he subscribes to so he can receive a permit to build in Jerusalem? That would be horrendous and it negates even U.S. law."
Israel has every right to continue building in her capital city, as well as in established settlements. Ma'ale Adumim will certainly remain part of Israel in any future peace agreement: Both left-wing and right-wing Israeli governments have been in agreement on this. Also, the agreement reached between the Bush and Sharon Administrations permitted construction within major blocs and settlements. This announcement by the Israeli government fits within these very parameters.
While the Palestinians have consistently expressed their horror at all Israeli developments beyond the armistice lines after the 1967 war against the attacking Arabs, they fail to acknowledge that their war-mongering Arab brethren lost that war---and every war against Israel. Amazingly they don't seem to accept that this profound fact dramatically limits their leverage over Israel when negotiating for territory. When the Nazis lost WWII, many countries, including Poland and Czechoslovakia, reclaimed their ancient homeland. It's a simple fact that when people lose a war, especially aggressors, they have to give up something. The Palestinians apparently believe they are an exception.
This week's FLAME Hotline article, by Jonathan Tobin, succinctly clarifies why Israeli development in E1 and other settlements in the West Bank is not preventing peace. Tobin argues that not only is the West Bank part of the area that the League of Nations designated for Jewish settlement, but "it is also the heart of the ancient Jewish homeland to which Jews have historical, legal and religious ties that cannot be erased by a century of Arab hatred.”
Israel has every right to assert her rights to the Holy Land, and this certainly includes building in areas that will always be part of the Jewish state. It is the unwillingness of Abbas and the Palestinians to negotiate with Israel directly, combined with thousands of Palestinian rockets fired at Israel, that are preventing peace. Indeed, the very least the Palestinians could have expected after taking their treaty-breaking unilateral steps in the U.N., is that Israel might take some actions on its own.
I urge you to pass this week's Hotline along to friends, colleagues, and fellow congregants using the "send to a friend" button at the bottom of this email, or using the buttons above to share it via social media. It makes clear that as per usual, the blame for the delay in achieving peace lies with the Palestinians.
Thanks for your continued support of Israel, and thank you for your support of FLAME.
Israel's Building No Obstacle to Peace
The reaction to Israel's announcement on Friday that it had approved building plans in Jerusalem and its suburbs was nearly unanimous. Even those who disapproved of the vote by the General Assembly of the United Nations to upgrade the Palestinian Authority to a pseudo-state at the world body damned the housing as either a childish tantrum on the part of the Israeli government to demonstrate their anger or a genuine threat to peace. The argument is that by allowing building in the E1 development area that connects the Maale Adumim suburb to the city, Israel will be foreclosing the possibility of a two-state solution since this would effectively cut the West Bank in half and forestall its viability as an independent Palestinian state.
It sounds logical but it's absolute nonsense. If the Palestinians did want a two-state solution, the new project as well as the other ones announced yesterday for more houses to be built in 40-year-old Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem wouldn't stop it. That's true even of those that say that the final borders of Israel and a putative state of Palestine must be based on the 1949 armistice lines with agreed-upon land swaps. Those swaps wouldn't amount to more than a few percentage points of the total land area of the West Bank and probably preclude Israel keeping many far-flung settlements in the territory. But everyone knows that the swaps would have to account for the Jewish suburbs of Jerusalem, including Maale Adumim and the other towns in the vicinity that are already inside the security fence that does not protect most settlements. But the operative phrase here is "if” the Palestinians wanted such a solution. They have refused every offer of a state they've gotten and refused even to negotiate for four years, not to mention employing the UN gambit specifically in order to avoid talks. The notion that Israeli building in areas that everyone knows they would keep if there was a deal in place is stopping peace from breaking out is ludicrous.
Nor should the Israeli gesture be viewed as petulant. To the contrary, it is exactly what is needed to start changing the one-sided nature of the argument in international forums about the dispute over territory.
Though you wouldn't know if from listening to the UN debate or even to most spokespersons for the Jewish state over the last forty years, the argument about the West Bank is not solely about pitting rights of Palestinians against Israel's security needs. The West Bank is, after all, part of the area designated by the League of Nations for Jewish settlement under the Mandate of Palestine. It is also the heart of the ancient Jewish homeland to which Jews have historical, legal and religious ties that cannot be erased by a century of Arab hatred.
Some of Israel's friends and all of its enemies claim that for Israel to speak of its rights to the West Bank is tantamount to saying that it doesn't want peace. Not so. Just because it has rights there doesn't mean that it must assert them under all circumstances, or that it wouldn't, if convinced that peace was to be had, give up some or all of the territory in exchange for an end to the conflict. Indeed, throughout the last 20 years, Israel has been in engaged in peace talks or attempts to revive them, during the course of which it has made numerous concessions about territory to the Palestinians.
For its pains, Israel has been subjected to even greater vituperation and delegitimization during this period than before. So long as it does not speak of its rights, it will always be treated as a thief who must return stolen property rather than as a party to a conflict with its own justified claims.
Even if the E1 area is developed, there will be no obstacle to peace talks that could produce a Palestinian state in almost all of the West Bank except for the major settlement blocs that no one expects Israel to give up. Nor would the Palestinian state be blighted by this project since highways and tunnels could easily be constructed to allow access between Arab areas to the north and the south of Jerusalem. Indeed, Jewish housing in the disputed areas is no more of an obstacle to peace than the far greater Arab housing boom in other parts of Jerusalem.
If the Palestinians truly wanted to live in peace in their own independent state next to Israel they could go back to the negotiating table and get it. If they were ever to actually offer an end to the conflict in which they recognized the legitimacy and the security of a Jewish state no matter where its borders were drawn, they would find the Israeli people would welcome their offer and no Israeli government could refuse. Instead, the so-called moderates among them — Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah-run PA — avoid talks and go to the UN where they seek an international fiat rather than an agreement. Meanwhile, the far more popular extremists of Hamas govern an independent Palestinian state in all but name in Gaza with an iron fist and use it as a terrorist launching pad rather than to help their people.
A few Jewish homes aren't the obstacle to Palestinian statehood. Their existence would make no difference to a peace deal that spoke of the 1967 lines with swaps, if that was actually the Palestinian goal. The problem is that to the Palestinians and their terrorist leaders, the E1 area is no more or less a settlement than the rest of Israel. Until they can rid themselves of the rejectionist spirit of 1947 in which they rejected the first UN vote to give them a state, talk of peace is empty rhetoric.
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