The “crisis”: Two deep (well, waist-high) thoughts


In examining the brouhaha triggered by Israel’s announcement two weeks ago of a housing start in eastern Jerusalem during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit, much has been made of how the start was in Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish neighborhood — albeit one built after the 1967 Six Day War.

AIPAC’s incoming president, Lee Rosenberg, referred to this in asking the administration to tamp down the (public) pressure on Israel:

During Vice President Biden’s trip to Israel, designed to celebrate the alliance between the two countries, an incident, which Prime Minister Netanyahu has called "regrettable," occurred with the announcement of a permit approval of a housing project in Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem.

For sure, this is a distinction Israelis understand; there are deep differences over maintaining control over Arab neighborhoods in the eastern part of Jerusalem, but there is a consensus over the "new" Jewish neighborhoods — they stay in.

But — and I’m not being snarky here, I’m not playing "gotcha" — I’m genuinely wondering if this is coming up behind closed doors when pro-Israel types meet with Israeli officials: Is there an implied rebuke here of Jewish construction in Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem? Is the Jewish establishment discomfited by the Jewish building in Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah?

The other familiar theme that made an appearance in Rosenberg’s speech:

History shows that when American pressures Israel publicly, it provides an opportunity for those who wish to derail the peace process to have their way.

I would amend that to "recent" history, no? You could make a case (and Rosenberg does, artfully) that U.S.-Israel divisions have driven the Palestinians "up a tree" in demanding an absolute settlement freeze as a condition for direct talks.

But George H.W. Bush’s pressures brought Israel to the Madrid talks in 1991 — and that led to Oslo (failed, at least for now); but also to a lasting and deep peace with Jordan.

Jimmy Carter did not hesitate to call out Menachem Begin when he thought he was moving too slow; the result of that process was a peace with Egypt that unfortunately does not run very deep — but is lasting, and has helped make Israel more secure.

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