Why Obama opposes construction in eastern Jerusalem


Why is the Obama administration against Jews living in eastern Jerusalem? asks columnist Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe:

Late last week, the Obama administration demanded that the Israeli government pull the plug on a planned housing development near the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem. The project, a 20-unit apartment complex, is indisputably legal. The property to be developed – a defunct hotel – was purchased in 1985, and the developer has obtained all the necessary municipal permits.

Why, then, does the administration want the development killed? Because Sheikh Jarrah is in a largely Arab section of Jerusalem, and the developers of the planned apartments are Jews. Think about that for a moment. Six months after Barack Obama became the first black man to move into the previously all-white residential facility at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, he is fighting to prevent integration in Jerusalem.

It is impossible to imagine the opposite scenario: The administration would never demand that Israel prevent Arabs from moving into a Jewish neighborhood. And the Obama Justice Department would unleash seven kinds of hell on anyone who tried to impose racial, ethnic, or religious redlining in an American city. In the 21st century, segregation is unthinkable – except, it seems, when it comes to housing Jews in Jerusalem.

There is one gaping hole in Jacoby’s argument: It’s not that Obama is against Jews and Arabs living together, it’s that he opposes Israeli construction in eastern Jerusalem because the United States has never recognized eastern Jerusalem as part of Israel. Israel captured the territory from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War and subsequently annexed it (something Israel did not do with the rest of the West Bank), but that annexation has not been accepted internationally. Therefore, in Obama’s view — as in the view of all previous U.S. administrations — Israel is building on territory that does not belong to it, and the municipality of Jerusalem has no right to grant construction permits in that territory.

Two weeks ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly used the term "Judenrein" to describe what the Obama administration is pressing for in pushing for a full freeze of Jewish settlement growth in the West Bank. How come Jews can live in Paris, Moscow, Warsaw, Berlin, Toronto, Buenos Aires and New York — and even Cairo and Amman — but not in Hebron, the Jordan Valley and other historically Jewish sites in the West Bank? The West Bank appears to be the only place in the world in which Jews are forbidden to live. Israelis — and many Jews worldwide — find this unacceptable.

What complicates the matter, however, is that the West Bank is disputed territory with no clear owner and where Jews and Arabs do not have the same rights. The Israelis occupy it, but they have not annexed it. Palestinians live there, but they do not have the same rights as their Jewish neighbors. For example, an Israeli Jew born in the West Bank is an Israeli citizen who gets full voting rights at age 18, but an Arab born in the territory has no such citizenship or rights.

Until the status of the West Bank is resolved these issues will continue to dog Israeli settlement there, even when it’s a matter of sites, like this one, legally purchased from Arabs by a Jew.

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