Death is closing in. Jerusalem is ready to blow. A genocidal bomb is being built in Iran, and an intifada is brewing at home. My Jerusalem feels “like a war zone,” writes Yossi Klein Halevi in The New Republic (March 16). There “are clusters of helmeted border police near the gates of the Old City, black smoke from burning tires in the Arab village across from my porch, young men marching with green Islamist flags toward my neighborhood, ambulances parked at strategic places ready for this city’s ultimate nightmare.” Some are calling it the Obama intifada.
What is clear, writes Halevi, “is that [President Barack] Obama’s recklessness is endangering Israeli — and Palestinian — lives. As I listen to police sirens outside my window, Obama’s political intifada against Netanyahu seems to be turning into a third intifada over Jerusalem.”
An intifada means that someone sitting down to a seder will be under the ground by Chanukah. If an intifada is brewing, and an increasing number of Israeli commentators and Palestinians say it is, this is what it means: a Jew will get on a bus and his leg will land on one sidewalk and what’s left of his smile will land across the street.
Thomas Friedman wrote in The New York Times (March 28) that the peace process has become a “necessity” for the Americans, a “hobby” for the Israelis. Actually, for many Israelis, afraid of death both personal and national, the peace process is more than a hobby: it is life or death. The peace process is less about negotiations but American demands, demands going beyond that of leaders from Egypt, Jordan or even Yasir Arafat when they signed on for peace. That the words “liberated” or even the “disputed” West Bank and Jerusalem are controversial but “occupied” is commonplace in the media is further evidence that the time for “negotiations” is over. A Jewish frozen Jerusalem and West Bank (but not Palestinian-frozen), says the Obama administration, must be a done deal before any further steps. Why should the Palestinians negotiate anything when Obama is delivering every ace in Israel’s deck before the cards are cut?
Along these lines, The Times (March 27) was able to write an entire editorial on the negotiations without even once mentioning the name of a Palestinian leader, only the names of Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as if the dispute was theirs alone.
The Times editorial is “skeptical” of Netanyahu’s promises. David Horovitz, editor of the Jerusalem Post (March 21), is skeptical of Obama’s. After all, Obama said while running for president, “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.” People used to ask, “Did Bush lie?” Now Israelis ask, “Did Obama lie?”
Soon after that statement, Obama added: Jerusalem was to be “negotiated between the two parties.” Was that a lie? The United States is now negotiating for one party, not between two parties.
Editor Ali Abunimah, one of Obama’s friends when Obama was still friends with Palestinian intellectuals Edward Said and Rashid Khalidi, wrote in his Chicago-based Electronic Intifada (March 4, 2007) about the time Abunimah saw Obama in the midst of Obama’s Senate campaign. “As he came in from the cold and took off his coat, I went up to greet him. He responded warmly, and volunteered, ‘Hey, I’m sorry I haven’t said more about Palestine rights now, but we are in a tough primary race. I’m hoping when things calm down I can be more up front.’” Obama did not lie. He is a man of his word.
A prominent columnist in London’s Spectator (March 23), under the headline “Israel as Czechoslovakia,” recalled that Ariel Sharon “once protested … that Israel would not play the role of Czechoslovakia in the thirties. It looks horribly if the repetition of that catastrophic history is precisely what the U.S. and U.K. governments have in mind … groveling to the enemies of civilization.” Meanwhile, “the lynching of Israel proceeds.”
Jackson Diehl, The Washington Post columnist who once was based in the Middle East, pointed out that prior administrations learned that “there will always be a provocation that threatens to derail peace talks — before they start, when they start and regularly thereafter.” The Obama administration ought to do what the Bush administration did: Tell Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, you can come to the table and negotiate a border for a Palestinian state, making settlements irrelevant. Or you can boycott and let the building continue.”
By placing the issue of building in Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem at the center of the peace process, writes Halevi, “President Obama has … challenged the Palestinians to do no less.”
“That Obama could be guilty of such amateurishness” in his first year, “was perhaps forgivable because he was, after all, an amateur,” writes Halevi. “But he has now taken his failed policy and intensified it. … This is no longer amateurishness; it is pique disguised as policy. … Obama has convinced many Israelis that he was merely seeking a pretext to pick a fight with Israel.”
Daniel Gordis, an advocate of the peace process, wrote a piece in the Jerusalem Post (Mar. 26) headlined, “Will Barack Obama Ignite the Third Intifada?”
He reports that on the Israeli radio, an Arab warned that the time had come for armed resistance to Israel’s “assault on Jerusalem,” a “third intifada” had arrived.
Gordis wonders, “For the Obama administration to suggest that the Palestinians cannot negotiate now because of [Jerusalem] construction strikes Israelis as either hopelessly naïve, or worse, fundamentally hostile to the Jewish state.” Polls show that Israeli trust in Obama is in the single digits.
And yet, while it is increasingly easy to indict Obama as an enemy of this Israeli government, it is harder — even painful — to hear the critique of writers such as David Remnick in The New Yorker (March 29) and Leon Wieseltier in The New Republic (March 17). Remnick asks, how can Obama be anti-Semitic? He was supported by such Jews, according to Remnick, as Michelle Obama’s cousin who leads a congregation of Black Hebrews, and the late Reform Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf, who was always on the far left politically. This proves what, exactly?
Wieseltier asserts that if Palestinians don’t have the right of return to Jaffa and Haifa, why do Jews have the right of return to east Jerusalem and Hebron?
The answer might be that while Palestinians don’t have the right to reclaim Jaffa homes, Israeli Arabs do indeed have the right to live there, and West Bank Palestinians could visit in an imagined peace. Jews, however, are being told that no Jewish community will be allowed to exist in the new Palestinian state. They must leave their home in Kedumim and Kiryat Arba. How’s that for a confidence builder?
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