Peretz on Jerusalem...
New housing units in Jerusalem for Jews is not a reason to condemn Israel..
That said, I believe that the great rabbi in the skies has not instructed Israel to force history to stand still. So let me be direct: The Palestinians have only themselves to blame on Jerusalem, as on other disputed matters. In 2000 and 2001, then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak agreed to a peace that included handing over the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem for the Palestinian capital. (Ehud Olmert made the same offer in 2008). The Arabs always believed that time was on their side, that their reluctance to negotiate and then their reluctance to sign would somehow improve their position. But time does not stand still, and it certainly no longer stands still for the Jews. Having waited in exile for 2,000 years, having struggled over nearly a century for a Jewish commonwealth, have tried to engage its neighbors in parley for more than half a century, the Jewish polity will no longer tarry, and it is justified in not tarrying.
Indeed, the American quick fix of “indirect” negotiations (with poor self-deluded George Mitchell shuttling between Jerusalem and Ramallah) plays into the Palestinian historic habit of eluding reality. But, if they will not sit with the Israelis, how can they possibly make peace with the Israelis? So what Obama’s affinity for the Palestinian sensibility has forced is a dangerous historic retreat that puts American sanction and blessings on fantasy. I actually believe that Netanyahu should have rejected this foolish formula. It is, however, an earnest representation of his commitment to move on with whatever “peace process” there is ... and there will be a peace process. It will end in nothing.
Now, back to Biden. Given that he surely understands this Israeli narrative and doubtless sympathizes with it as well, why did he use the word “condemn” about the announcement of the far-into-the future East Jerusalem housing? After all, if a peace agreement is struck beforehand, the 1,600 units can easily be cancelled. In fact, as Jennifer Rubin aptly points out today at Commentary, “condemn” is a rather shrill word in the affairs of state and is not used casually by the Obami. Mrs. Clinton, no longer a supplicant for Jewish votes and money, has also rushed to the strident in speaking about and to Israel. I conclude that this is actually administration policy. There is curious confirmation illuminating this in a column by Roger Cohen which has nothing to do with Israel. His piece fixes on Obama’s affinities for cultures and polities that had not been central in the minds of previous American presidents. So this president has actually played rough with our traditional allies and ideological companions. He is, as I have said a few times, a third worlder. We will see how America will do with our true friends sidelined. Perhaps the Brits will console themselves that Obama returned the bust of Winston Churchill that they lent to the White House after 9/11.
Anyway, it is increasingly clear that the president feels more connection to the Palestinians specifically and the Arabs generally than he does to the Israelis (and just possibly more connection to Muslims than to Jews, to Islam than to Judaism and Jewishness.)
So he is stuck with the allies he has chosen. In the long run, it will not matter. The Palestinians will not play even the minimal accommodating role in peace-seeking that Obama has assigned them. There are relentless facts about Palestine that even the president’s disregard for Jewish sensibility and for Israel’s security will not be able to alter.