I could hardly believe my ears as I listened to ABC local Radio 720 AM at 8.00 AM this morning as they ran a news item and correspondent report from Ann Barker. This was a media manipulation of reality that would have made Goebbles very proud. I came close to running my car off the road as the ABC described the common residents of the Capital of Israel as “Jewish Settlers”. It was this broadcast that has prompted tonights blog post.
For those who don’t follow the reality of the story behind the news, the latest brouhaha in Israel US relations was sparked following the visit of US Vice President Biden to Israel. During that visit, there was an operational planning announcement about the Ramat Shlomo neighbourhood of Jerusalem, essentially that the fourth stage of seven planning process approvals had been concluded for the construction of 1,600 housing units. The Israeli Prime Minister, for some reason apologised about the timing of the announcement and emphasised he was unaware that this would occur during the visit. However out of this announcement the Obama administration has manufactured a diplomatic crisis. The Wall St Journal wrote “Assuming final approval, no ground will be broken on the project for at least three years. But neither that nor repeated apologies from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prevented Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – at what White House sources ostentatiously said was the personal direction of President Obama – from calling the announcement “an insult to the United States.”
White House political advisor David Axelrod also described Israel’s announcement as an “affront” and an “insult”.
Some of the commentary relating to this incident where the USA is going out of its way to provoke a diplomatic standoff has highlighted a number of points.
The announcement hardly “undermines” US policy when the USA has already accepted and praised a “settlement freeze” as a “major concession”. This freeze in construction was communicated with great clarity that the neighbourhoods of Jerusalem were excluded. The Government of Israel has repeatedly stated and maintained that any final agreement for a Palestinian State cannot include all of the area that was restored to Israel following the Six-Day War in 1967, a war that was initiated against Israel. The policy of Israel has not shifted in any way over recent months.
Secretary Hilary Clinton contended that Israel has to show it is “serious about peace”. This confronting statement shows up the double standard of the US Government. That the Palestinians never have been serious about peace and are not required to be serious seems to be inconsequential to Obama’s Government. Israel has offered to go back to the negotiating table with “no preconditions”, the Palestinian Authority have consistently refused to negotiate or conceed anything over the full 15 months of the Obama administration as they did with previous administrations. Israel has made offers and gestures on many occasions, the settlement freeze, Gaza withdrawal, and Rabin’s peace offer to name a few. The basic laws of negotiation entail give and take from both parties. To date, Israel has been the only party in this conflict to move their position in the interests of compromise.
Remember the roadmap? Under the roadmap, Palestinians were required to undertake an immediate cessation of armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere, and all official Palestinian institutions must end incitement against Israel. The Palestinian leadership was required to act decisively against terror, including sustained, targeted, and effective operations to stop terrorism and dismantle terrorist capabilities and infrastructure. Which explains that as Vice President Biden departed from Israel the “moderate” Palestinian Authority named a public square in Ramallah after the terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, who murdered 37 people in a bus-hijacking massacre. Arutz Sheva reported that “Fatah spokesman Dr. Faiz Abu Aytah called Mughrabi “a symbol in the history of our national struggle” and emphasized “the right of Fatah, of the Palestinian Authority, and of the Palestinian people to celebrate the anniversary of her martyrdom.” The Palestinian Authority has not halted violence and incitement against Israel, yet apparently the USA think Israel is the party to this conflict that is not “serious” about making peace!
In analysing what Obama is trying to achieve by seeing how far Israel can be pushed, it should also be noted that Jerusalem is a united city of both Israeli and Arab citizens. Israel often gets accused of “apartheid”, but is this not what the Obama administration is promoting by asserting that the suburb of Ramat Shlomo is not appropriate for Jewish residence? One assumes that, although Israel has a record of freedom to religious sites and religious expression, whatever Palestinian State that the USA desires to establish will be Judenrhien? How ironic that it is Obama that is trying to divide Jerusalem and establish divisional settlement for Palestinian’s. Israel is a soveriegn nation and has the right to determine its own demographic composition.
Going one step further, what is the USA doing by interfering with the Town Planning development policies of another country in the first place? This situation is no different to Israel demanding that the northern suburbs of Washington be developed for Hispanic settlement only.
Ultimately this whole saga is a political concoction that will backfire on the US Government. In the words of Robert Satloff, “it would be an analytical blunder for the administration to believe that this incident is an opportunity that could precipitate Netanyahu’s political demise: after all, this government is an accurate reflection of what Israeli politics these days is all about.”
Additionally the USA must know that any attempt to bully Israel will still not appease their Islamist enemies. This quote from Avi Issacharoff must be noted: “Vice President Biden’s attempts to imply that Israeli policy is endangering the lives of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, and even Iraq, verge on an insult to the intelligence. Afghans don’t care about Ramat Shlomo, or about the Palestinians and Netanyahu. As far as extremist Islamists are concerned, the seven-year presence of American forces on Iraqi soil is a good enough excuse to attack Americans.”
Whist this incident has boiled over, it is, in the words of Robert Malley, a good thing that the USA can “see the Israeli government’s stance on East Jerusalem in all its clarity. If the United States intends to bring about an agreement between the two sides, far better that it be aware of their actual positions rather than proceed on the basis of imaginary ones.”
No Israeli government, on either side of politics would be prepared to sacrifice 3,000 years of Jewish history and heritage by dividing Jerusalem as the Capital city of the Jewish people. Building the suburbs of Jerusalem is no different to building the suburbs of Tel Aviv.
All of this context sees the USA fall short. Sadly so too this context is concealed from the media consumers of the ABC. The Israeli concessions of recent times count for naught and seem now not to be taken into account as the diplomatic processes of recent months fail and unravel. Our own Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, has shown no backbone by falling into line behind the Obama administration’s condemnation. Smith, whose accomplishments as Foreign Minister of Australia reach the grand subtotal of zero, has lamely endorsed the USA condemnation, something I will have in mind as I next approach the ballot box.
It is a sad state of affairs. History will show that the events of this week are a major turning point for the USA, as its moral compass loses its gravitational control, and its unreasonable expectations of Israel begin to reward Palestinian intransigence and penalise Israeli goodwill.