Both sides must give

Both sides must give

A recent effort by the Obama administration to mend fences with American Jewish leaders following last month’s incident over housing construction in East Jerusalem is a welcomed gesture, but it doesn’t go far enough.
As JTA reported this week, National Security Council Middle East Senior Director Dan Shapiro held an off-the-record conference Friday with Jewish leaders during which he reportedly diffused tension between the two allies by accusing the media of blowing the story out of proportion.
Killing the messenger is always the tactic of last resort.
Unfortunately, Shapiro also reportedly emphasized that Jerusalem is a final-status issue to be discussed directly between Israel and Palestinian negotiators.
That’s true in a technical sense. In a practical sense, it’s hard to imagine any Israeli government — or any government of any country — agreeing to divide its own capital city.
As Sen. Arlen Specter noted last week in a meeting with The Chronicle staff, the White House tends to lump Jerusalem together with the West Bank, failing to understand the vital 3,000-year-old relationship between the Jews and the City of David.
(In fairness to Specter, he backtracked somewhat in an answer to a subsequent question, in which he said the administration is coming to understand that relationship, but his point remains relevant.)
Two states? Yes. Two Jerusalems? No.
We have said before in this space that there are compromises Israel can offer to the Palestinians in place of dividing the city. Embassy status can be afforded the Dome of the Rock and Al Aksa Mosque. A similar situation exists in Rome where the Vatican City sits surrounded by the Italian capital.
And though we oppose dividing the city, what a new Palestinian state does with its suburbs nearest the Israeli capital is their business. If those neighborhoods were renamed Jerusalem — they would probably call it al Quds — well, two Kansas Cities exist side by side here in America.
But asking Israel to give up half its capital is akin to asking it to commit suicide. The Jewish state is in a rough neighborhood where concessions are frequently seen as signs of weakness. Dividing Jerusalem would embolden those who would resort to violence to procure even more gains. The Obama administration needs to appreciate that.
For compromise to work this time, both sides — not just one — must make painful concessions. Both sides must be seen making equal steps toward peace. Otherwise, the ink won’t be dried on a future peace treaty when the second Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be well under way.