Americans for Peace Now sent a letter to President Obama today, urgently pointing out what should be obvious to him: “Engage NOW to get Jerusalem under control.” The full text of the letter can be found here.
The letter lays out the problem clearly enough. And, indeed, the solution is for President Obama to get Prime Minister
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat
Netanyahu to rein in the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat. I’ll take it further—Barkat is as big a threat to Israel’s future as any individual in the world.
Barkat, a businessman, became mayor in 2008, and many thought that as a secular Israeli, coming on the heels of a very religious mayor, he would be more pragmatic. Such has not been the case.
Barkat has gone out of his way to enflame the conflict with the Palestinians. Jerusalem is the most emotional of all the issues setting Israelis and Palestinians at odds, and the mayor of Jerusalem, therefore, has more direct power than anyone to cause flare-ups.
Barkat does not pay much mind to this fact. In his campaign for mayor he made it very clear that he felt strongly that Jerusalem remain the “undivided, eternal capital of the Jewish people.” And, much more than his Haredi predecessor, he has taken bold steps to ensure that outcome. Continue reading →
In my most recent article, I described Benjamin Netanyahu as having won his roll of the dice in the wake of the Israeli announcement of new Jerusalem building while Joe Biden was trying to restart the peace process.
I spoke too soon. Perhaps one can say my expectations of the Obama Administration had been lowered and so the recent developments come as a pleasant surprise. But pleasant it is, and the welcome stance from Washington is going to force some recalculations in Israel. How much of a recalculation is going to depend on how steadfast Obama can remain in the face of what is likely to be a growing backlash.
Obama is explaining things these days to Netanyahu
The Obama Administration may have accepted the excuse that the timing of the announcement of 1,600 new housing units in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo was a bureaucratic foul-up. But the Israeli apology, which went out of its way to make it clear that it was only the timing that was seen to be at fault, was not sufficient for Washington.
By stressing that the only problem was the fact that the announcement came while Joe Biden was in Israel trying to start “proximity talks” between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel put the Obama Administration in a bad position. If Washington accepted the apology and let the matter go, the talks were doomed because it would have meant, to the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world, that the US was not objecting to the expansion of a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem. Even if they had continued, American credibility would have been so low as to make the talks pointless.
It is almost certain that such would have been precisely the course the Clinton or Bush, Jr. Administrations would have followed. But, recalling the early days of his administration, Obama broke that pattern. Continue reading →