Outrage! That is the word Vice-President Joe Biden used yesterday to describe the decision of the Israel’s interior minisister Eli Yishai to sanction the construction of 1600 new units in the Jerusalem suburb of Ramat Shlomo. Forget that the decision had been on the books since June of 2008 or that Ramat Shlomo sits on land already annexed by the State of Israel and over which it claims sovereignty. Forget that the Netanyahu government’s 10 month housing freeze expressly excluded East Jerusalem. This was to be another Palestinian grievance by which the U.S. administration would blithely allow itself to be manipulated.
Yes, the timing could have been better. But lets face it: Almost any construction in Jerusalem is a cause for heated debate between I srael, the U.S.and the Palestinians. A few weeks ago I highlighted the dispute between Los Angeles’ Simon Wiesenthal Center and the custodians of a Palestinian cemetery. There are continuing disputes between the Palestinian controlled Wakf and the Jeruslaem City Council over access to the Temple Mount. And Har Homa, which is a project now completed, continues to sizzle on the Palestinian grill.
But the Vice President could not be placated. He insists that any building in Jerusalem will affect U.S. soldiers in other areas of the Middle East and U.S. interests in general.
Here , apparently, according to Politico, is what he said behind closed doors:
“This is starting to get dangerous for us,” Biden castigated his interlocutors. “What you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace.”
The vice president told his Israeli hosts that since many people in the Muslim world perceived a connection between Israel’s actions and US policy, any decision about construction that undermines Palestinian rights in East Jerusalem could have an impact on the personal safety of American troops fighting against Islamic terrorism. “
The ‘danger’ comes from incendiary statements like this and not in any Israeli decision to build housing. If the actions of the Israeli government “endanger regional peace” it is only because the U.S. government allows them to. The implict acceptance of Palestinian land rights in East Jerusalem prejudices the potential peace talks by taking a direct position on the matter.
Put simply, the idea that the capital of a potential Palestinian state should be in East Jerusalem, has extremely little support in I srael and has not been officially accepted by any Israeli government. The two sectors of Jerusalem were united by Israel in 1980 under the Jerusalem Law, even if the boundaries were never clearly delineated. Today Arabs and Jews both inhabit this part of the city and Israeli law extends to all.
The Palestinians have given I sraelis no good reason to believe they would be good neighbors and that establishing a Palestinian capital on the Knesset’s doorstep will lead to peaceful relations. In fact, since the 1993 Oslo Accords, quite the opposite has been in evidence.
If Palestinians want “rights” in East Jerusalem, perhaps they can start by demonstrating that they can abide by their own agrreements, that they are capable of enforcing their own laws and that the graft and corruption that is rife inthe kelptocracy that is the Palestinian Authority can be investigated and curtailed.
Unfortunately the Palestinians, infused with the dignity of a potential sovereign government by the United States and almost every other nation on earth, have no incentive to do any of this. Their politics of grievance always trumps the politics of action. And as long as that continues to happen and as long as the United States fails to take note of it, the more adamant will each successive Israeli government become that Jerusalem will never be divided.