Too high a price
Israel apologized Wednesday — and rightly so — for disrupting Vice President Joe Biden’s peace mission to the region by announcing authorization for 1,600 new homes in east Jerusalem.
When the No. 2 leader of your chief benefactor is in your country on a peace mission, the last thing you should do is embarrass him, which was the end result of the housing announcement.
Biden, as a result, was forced to publicly condemn the housing starts — a particularly harsh diplomatic gesture, especially between friends such as the United States and Israel.
So let’s be frank: Israel made a mistake with its horrible sense of timing for this announcement.
However, while the timing of the announcement was wrong, the announcement itself was not.
Under no circumstances, as some advocates of the two-state solution (certainly not all) propose, should Jerusalem ever be divided again, nor should gestures be made that leave the possibility on the table; it would only weaken
Israel’s bargaining position.
Prior to 1967, when the Old City and its holiest sites were under Arab control, Jews were denied access to the Western Wall, they couldn’t live in the Jewish Quarter and some synagogues were desecrated. One can visit the Jewish Quarter today and see the ruins of a synagogue and the mosque that was built right next to it.
That occurred under Jordanian rule, and it showed that Jordan never intended for Jews to return to the Old City — not a good example of holy site stewardship.
Yes, we know, that was then and this is now. The year is 2010 and the Jordanians are gone. We do believe there are Palestinians who crave a just and sustainable peace. The problem is, they’re not in power.
The Fatah government in the West Bank, led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, holding out in effect for a one-state solution that would one day elbow Jews from power as the Arab population continues to grow.
Were that to happen, the P.A. could do whatever it wants, and Abbas’ government has made no satisfactory assurances that Jewish life in the Old City would continue unaffected.
Speculation? Maybe, but there have already been incidents of Muslim worshippers on the Temple Mount throwing rocks down on Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall below. And the Waqf — the governing board of the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque — has made unsubstantiated claims that Israel is trying to physically undermine these sites.
Such instances and attitudes don’t bode well for a potential Arab control of east Jerusalem, which we must assume would include the Old City. It’s hard to imagine the P.A. settling for a deal that leaves it out.
This paper has historically supported a two-state solution, but not at any cost. Jerusalem is too high a price to pay, and no one should dictate where in that city a Jew may live.