Israel announced this week the impending construction of 1,100 housing units in the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo, located in the Southwest part of Jerusalem, over the “Green Line”, AKA “The 1967 borders” and in reality, the 1949 armistice lines following Israel’s war of independence.
As expected, what seems like the entire world has reacted as if the anticipated building of these units at some still to be determined time in the future is a catastrophe and is the major stumbling block preventing the Israelis and the Palestinians from immediately sitting down and negotiating a peace agreement.
But, if one looks at facts, a question emerges.
Israel has had control of this territory, which is essentially a bedroom suburb of Jerusalem, approximately 5-10 minutes from the city center, since 1967.
Israel has extended the hand of peace many times to the Palestinians, with results varying only in their ferocity. Israel has suffered thousands of casualties from terror attacks, been vilified in the media of the world, castigated by friend and foe alike, and essentially told that they are the only impediment to peace. “If only Israel would stop building settlements, there would be negotiations”. Of course, that is a crock.
When Israel DID stop building for 1o months, President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority was nowhere to be found. After 9.5 months, he came forward, “negotiated” for a few hours, and then demanded that the freeze continue or negotiations were off. Israel said “no”, and away he went.
Since then, he has added the additional pre-condition that Israel agree in advance of any negotiations to the 1967 “borders”, which are, as I mentioned above, really the 1949 armistice lines and were NEVER intended to be borders.
Since Israel will not agree to final status arrangements outside of negotiations, we sit at a stalemate.
But, let’s examine just a little bit what this really means.
Israel has been waiting 44 years for the Palestinians to be serious about peace. Israeli government after government has made offers of virtually ALL the West Bank and Gaza, along with huge swaths of Jerusalem and international control of the holy sites. The Palestinians, under Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, have respectively, declined, starting a terror war (the Intifada); and simply walked away without responding.
Jerusalem, as a relatively modern, growing city, with both Arab and Jewish neighborhoods, has changed dramatically in the last 63 years since the founding of the state of Israel, and drastically since 1967. Neighborhoods have sprouted in both the Arab areas and the Jewish areas, of which Gilo is one.
This growth is, for the most part, natural and organic, driven by a lack of housing in the city center. It is moving outward, just like most growing cities in the world.
Until President Obama became president of the US, there were tacit and explicit understandings that Jewish areas would remain part of Israel, and Arab areas would (probably) be part of the new Arab Palestinian state.
President Obama upset and changed that mole-hill by turning it into such a large “mountain” that the Palestinians could not ignore it and have painted themselves into a corner from which they cannot withdraw without losing face. They almost HAVE to insist that building stop.
And therein lies the rub. Building CANNOT stop. People need homes to live in. Building goes on in BOTH parts of Jerusalem – Arab AND Israeli. Of course, we never hear about building in the Arab areas being an impediment to peace, but it is equally necessary for THEIR expanding population, and therefore, is almost impossible to stop.
So, here’s the question I mentioned above:
How long must Israel wait for the Palestinians to sit down and negotiate, in good faith, before they provide adequate and sufficient housing for their citizens IN AREAS THAT ARE 100% JEWISH AND HAVE BEEN FOR OVER 40 YEARS?
As I have said many times, the solution (for the Palestinians) can only be found at the negotiating table. If they want to finalize borders which will define what are “settlements” and what communities are part of Israel, they have only to sit down and work out the borders.
If they truly want peace and a state, they will do that.
One can only conclude that their objectives are NOT peace and a state, and that they have no intention of negotiating. As long as they can get the world to condemn Israel for building in its own suburbs of Jerusalem, why should they hurry to sit down?
So, WHY should Israel wait for them? To appease a world rife with anti-Semitism, supportive of the racist, Apartheid policies of the PA and supportive of the insane, horribly lopsided proclamations of the UN against everything Israel says and does? Why?
The answer is, they shouldn’t wait. Israel needs to do what Israel needs to do. If and when the Palestinians decide that peace is something that interests them, they will come along to the party and perhaps end up with a state. Its boundaries may not look exactly like they hope they will, but nobody has ever claimed that life is fair or that you always get what you want.
Temper tantrums can be costly, and I suspect that the Palestinians are going to learn this the hard way, as the pendulum seems to be swinging against their intransigence.