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Obama Administration Confrontation with Israel Over Jerusalem

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Submitted by Herbert Roth (United States), Mar 17, 2010 at 12:03

I don't mean to criticize but I was surprised by the mildness of your initial blog in the National Review Online (3/10/2010) about the peremptory demand by the Obama administration for a halt in all preparations for Jewish housing in all parts of Jerusalem under Arab rule from 1948 to 1967.

I was surprised because my own reaction is substantially based, but only in part, on an essay you wrote a number of years ago about the Arab connection to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is vital to the Arabs because it is vital to the Jews. Recognizing the Jewish claim to ancient Jerusalem would be construed among the Arabs, rightly so, as an implicit recognition of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state and a step toward explicit recognition. But there is another slippery slope, far steeper and far more slippery in in the test of wills between the Obama administration and Israel. It is about forcing Israel to take a step toward recognizing its own illegitimacy. The slippery slope is not a worn out cliché. It is reality.

Humiliation of the Jews is crucial to the Arab strategy. While the Obama Administration does not want to be perceived as humiliating the Jews, it did adopt, then reject and has now again embraced humiliation of Israel as part of its strategy. If pressed the Obama Administration would probably argue that a halt to processing 1,600 apartment units in Jerusalem is trivial. Important Israelis like Tzipi Livni may second this belief. In practical, on the ground physical terms, the humiliation is small. In terms of the struggle for a Jewish homeland and a Jewish state the humiliation is enormous. To say the right of Jews to live in any part of Jerusalem is subject to Arab consent is an insult and not a small one. It will be the first of additionally graver humiliations, leading to the ultimate humiliation, the virtually complete reversal of the Six Day War and restoration of the status quo ante.

The notion that the humiliations once started can be arrested at any time is wrong. Once Israel steps on the slope of recognizing in any degree its own illegitimacy it will be pushed further and further down the slope. I believe both supporters Israel, including those who gave their enthusiastic support to Barrack Obama in the election of 2008, and opponents Jewish claims in Palestine, have thought that at some point there would be a head to head between the Obama administration and Israel. Postponing that clash is Israeli policy. Some, perhaps Tzipi Livni, would give in on this supposedly trivial point of the preliminary approval of 1,600 apartment units in order to postpone the clash a little longer. The Netanyahu government might also be tempted to give in on at this point. I think this is wrong. The latest reports indicate that the Obama Administration and the Netanyahu government are looking for a face saving way to back off from the brink of this confrontation. I wonder if this is in Israel's interest.

Israel's position in American currently is strong. But it is not getting stronger and trends may be in the opposite direction. Israel's opponents are smarter than ever. They have a significant and, I'm afraid, growing cadre of Jewish supporters. I'm not talking about crack-pots like Norman Finkelstein. One prominent Jewish politician, Senator Feinstein, whose support of Israel is at best lukewarm, has already jumped on the Administration's bandwagon and there may be others. I doubt that President Obama has any aspiration at this point to become an American Charles de Gaulle and switch sides in the Arab-Israeli conflict. That's not politically feasible at this time. There may come a time when it is politically feasible.

I believe that now may be better than any conceivable later time for the confrontation with the Obama administration. It would be foolish and stupid for the confrontation to be about any temporary suspension in the processing of new Jewish homes in Jerusalem. It must be about the right of the Jewish state to exist and the inseparability of Jerusalem, in particular the holiest part of Jerusalem, from the Jewish state.

Submitting....

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Daniel Pipes replies:

The mildness of my initial reply is due to the fact that I wrote it before the over-wrought Obama administration response a couple of days later. I subsequently addressed that in a more hard-hitting analysis a week later at "The Worst Crisis in 35 Years?" http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/2010/03/the-worst-crisis-in-35-years

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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