Obama to Israelis: Jerusalem Is a “Settlement” – by P. David Hornik




Asked by Fox News in China what he thought of Israel’s plans to build 900 housing units in the Gilo neighborhood in southeastern Jerusalem, President Obama responded:

“The situation in the Middle East is very difficult, and I’ve said repeatedly and I’ll say again, Israel’s security is a vital national interest to the United States, and we will make sure they are secure. I think that additional settlement building does not contribute to Israel’s security. I think it makes it harder for them to make peace with their neighbors. I think it embitters the Palestinians in a way that could end up being very dangerous.”

To most Israeli ears the statement is discordant. The avowal of commitment to Israel’s security doesn’t jibe with describing building in Gilo as “dangerously embittering” the Palestinians. Gilo, now a neighborhood of 40,000, was annexed by Israel in the aftermath of the 1967 war as part of the reunification of Jerusalem. Gilo is a fact; ordinary Israelis live in it, and calling them settlers would be laughable.

Not that Obama was breaking new ground in calling a Jewish Jerusalem neighborhood a settlement. Less than two years ago then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said of another such neighborhood, Har Homa, that “Har Homa is a settlement the United States has opposed from the very beginning” and that the United States “doesn’t make a distinction” between settlement activity in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. Har Homa, however, only goes back to the 1990s and is a good deal smaller than Gilo. “Gilo” and “settlement” sounds even more jarring.

Nor was Obama, of course, alone in his statement; he was leading the international charge. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s spokeswoman said “such actions [as building in Gilo] undermine efforts for peace and cast doubt on the viability of the two-state solution.” The British Foreign Office said that “Expanding settlements on occupied land in east Jerusalem makes [a] deal much harder. So this decision on Gilo is wrong and we oppose it.” French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, in Israel for talks, also condemned the building plans.

And back in Washington, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the administration was “dismayed” and that both parties should avoid actions that could “preempt, or appear to preempt, negotiations.”

Just as the official international reaction was unanimous in opposing the building, the internal Israeli reaction was unanimous in supporting it—and included leading figures from both the government and the opposition.

An aide to Prime Minister Netanyahu wrote in a message to reporters that “Construction in Gilo has taken place regularly for dozens of years and there is nothing new about the current planning and construction.” Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin of Netanyahu’s Likud Party said that “new demands of the type that the Americans are airing now, pushes us toward a red line that we cannot allow ourselves to cross, and is not legitimate. The right to build in all of unified Jerusalem is not questioned in Israel….” Tzipi Livni, opposition leader and head of the left-of-center Kadima Party, told Kouchner that “Gilo is part of the Israeli consensus….”

Nir Barkat, mayor of Jerusalem, was the least restrained, stating:

“Israeli law does not discriminate between Jews and Arabs and between east and west [Jerusalem]. The demand to specifically halt construction for Jews is not legal in the U.S. or in any other enlightened country in the world.

“I cannot imagine the American administration demanding a halt to construction in the U.S. based upon race, religion or sex, and the attempt to demand this of Jerusalem constitutes a double standard and is unacceptable. The Jerusalem Municipality will continue to enable construction in all parts of the city to both Arabs and Jews, with one law for all.”

Why did Obama and the world’s criticism evoke such strong, across-the-board indignation in Israel?

For one thing, it strikes at the core Jewish value of Jerusalem. From 1948 to 1967, when the city was divided, Israelis in West Jerusalem lived with sniper fire from Jordanian East Jerusalem. Jordan not only reneged on international undertakings to permit Israeli access to Jerusalem’s Holy Basin, but desecrated and destroyed the synagogues there. Nevertheless, Israel implored Jordan not to enter the 1967 war—in vain. With united Jerusalem now in Israeli hands for forty-two years, only Israelis well to the Left are willing to countenance a redivision of the city into Arab and Jewish areas. Even under such an arrangement, neighborhoods like Gilo (and Har Homa) would remain intact and continue to grow. They are not up for discussion.

Such criticism also implies that no Israeli concessions can ever suffice. Netanyahu, a lifelong Likud figure commonly tagged as a “hawk” and “hardliner” abroad, has gone so far as to announce his preparedness for a Palestinian state (twenty years ago still a far-Left position in Israel) and for a freeze in construction throughout the West Bank. After Netanyahu had supposedly clarified with Obama that stopping construction in Jerusalem was farther than he or any Israeli prime minister could go, the president’s reference to Gilo as an “additional settlement” where building “embitters the Palestinians” sounds to Israelis—whether or not it is intended as such—like contempt for their willingness to compromise and a message that not even their most basic rights are safe.

In a better world, the Israeli reaction would lead the administration to ask: is pushing Jews out of Jerusalem really an American interest, and is it consistent with American values? For how long do the Palestinians—who have flatly rejected every peace offer since 1937 and have refused even to negotiate with Israel since Obama has been in office—deserve such consideration? Is the pressure by the larger Muslim world to downgrade the Jewish connection to Jerusalem something the United States should submit to?

  • antifascist18

    Chimp Out by 012, and his fellow Democratic Nazi Party members in Congress who are about to shove a totalitarian lethal care plan down our throats much sooner.

    And for those offended by me calling our little pew-sitting, coward and liar piece of crap a Chimp, tough. You were calling a REAL MAN AND PRESIDENT, Bush, much worse the past 8 years. He protected us and supported our allies, Jeremiah Wright's little boy betrays and screws us.

    Chimp Out.

  • Lary9

    I was glad to give you a soap box for further frothy hyperbole.

  • LindaRivera

    To andyfree:

    Col. Richard Kemp, a British commander in Bosnia and Afghanistan
    stated: “The Israel Defense Forces did more to SAFEGUARD the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare. ” (Guardian-UK)

    Goldstone Gaza Report: Col. Richard Kemp Testifies at U.N. Emergency Session

  • LindaRivera

    To andyfree

    Hamas/PA Target JEWISH INNOCENTS. Israel Targets Terrorists

    Elites oppose Jews defending themselves from thousands of rocket attacks.

    In a military response several years overdue, Israel warned Gaza civilians via loudspeakers, thousands of leaflets and 200,000 telephone calls urging evacuation of battle areas. The IDF aborted missile strikes to prevent civilian casualties, opened a field clinic for Muslims on Gaza's border, and constantly gave humanitarian aid whilst Hamas waged WAR against innocent Israeli civilians.

    The Islamics commit war crimes: they use human shields; hide behind women and children; wage war from densely populated areas, store and fire rockets from residential buildings, schools, hospitals & mosques to deliberately MAXIMISE Arab injuries and deaths so that when Israel fires back in self defense and accidentally kills civilians, the Islamics scream to the world, but the blood of the Arabs is on the heads of the Islamics.

    Hamas Charter of RELIGIOUS HATE and Genocide of Non-Muslims:
    'Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims. Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.'

    It is not about land, it's about intense religious hate that demands the mass murder of non-Muslim innocents. Jews are targeted first.

    An Israeli hospital treated a Muslim woman-she returned strapped with a bomb belt to blow up amongst the Jewish doctors and nurses who helped her.

    Hezbollah leader Nasarallah:

    If they (Jews) all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide. (Daily Star, Oct. 23, 2002)

    Hamas TV video teaches that bombs that kill Israelis are more precious to an Arab mother than her children.

    Religious HATE and Religious MURDER of Jews and other non-Muslims is taught in mosques worldwide.

    Palestinian Authority Muslims CELEBRATE 9/11 Murders of 3,000 American innocents.

    The Palestinian Authority hailed as heroes the terrorists who brutally murdered defenseless 8 months pregnant Jewish mother, Tali Hatuel, and 4 little daughters in Gush Katif in May 2004.

    Muslim killers of Jewish children are adored-Palestinian Authority newspaper al-Hayat al-Jadida called savage child-killer Kuntar “a beacon of light” and an “authentic role model.” Palestinian Authority leader, Abbas, called Kuntar a hero. Syria's Assad said Kuntar was chief among honorable men and awarded Kuntar Syria's highest medal, the Syrian Order of Merit.

    Thousands of Palestin
    ians again celebrate attacks, videotape suppressed
    By Ellis Shuman and israelinsider staff September 16, 2001

    On Friday and Saturday, thousands of Palestinians again paraded through cities in the West Bank and Gaza, celebrating the attacks on the United States.
    “Jubilant Palestinians took to the streets of refugee camps of Lebanon and the West Bank, waving Palestinian flags and distributing sweets to celebrate the attacks.

    “Palestinian policemen celebrating and shooting into the air, in addition to civilians dancing,”
    …Arab students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem held a party Tuesday night celebrating the attacks and giving out candy to participants.

    Hamas Member of Parliament Fathi Hammad, February 29, 2008 on Al-Aqsa TV that for PA Arabs, “death has become an industry at which women excel… The elderly excel at this, and so do the mujahideen and the children.”

    Translated by MEMRI, Hammad : “This is why they have formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly and the mujahideen, in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine. It is as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: 'We desire death like you desire life.”

    There has not been a single Muslim street demonstration to protest the cruel, massive Islamic attacks on non-Muslims in New York, Bali, India, Phillipines, Israel, London, Beslan, Madrid and more.


  • jjk770

    From 1948 – 1967 the Jordanian “occupation” was not recognized by the international community, so you can't argue now that we are occupying somebody else's land and certainly not Palestinian land. It was never theirs to begin with.

  • jjk770

    From 1948 – 1967 the Jordanian “occupation” was not recognized by the international community, so you can't argue now that we are occupying somebody else's land and certainly not Palestinian land. It was never theirs to begin with.

  • jjk770

    Type your reply…

  • imgood

    I believe you are mistaken, johnfor. The relevant U.N. Security Council Resolutions of the time do not characterise the Israelis who inhabit the territories as unlawful. The Palestinians were, and remain, unwilling to settle the conflict, and are, as such, belligerents. Traditionally, a victor at war was permitted to occupy and have its population settle a territory for security purposes until a resolution could be achieved. After the war of 1967, the Arab states and PLO (a dictatorial terrorist organisation declared by Arab dictators to be the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”) answered the Israeli offer of peace with the “three Nos,” A decade later, while Egypt and Israel were concluding a peace treaty as part of the first Camp David talks, the Palestinians refused to even discuss autonomy, a process which by 1990 would likely have led to a state. During the period between 1993 and 2000, successive Israeli governments offered Palestinians more than 95% of the territories (including the extremely generous Ehud Barak offer in 2000). The Palestinians, as usual, increased their demands beyond reason, and when the Israelis did not grant the wish of the Palestinians that the Israelis commit suicide, the Palestinians began a new round of terror. Most of the people who condemn the Israeli settlers support regimes who violate human rights and international law in much more egregious ways than they suppose Israel does.

  • andyFree

    For starters, that's not true – it was to be a “national home”, not a state. Statements such as “Palestine to be as Jewish as France is French” were condemned by the International community eg Churchill. Nor was it International Law, it was a treaty long superseded by subsequent treaties.

    But for second, Zionists cannot claim support from International Law now unless they themselves abide by it – and they refuse to do so.

  • andyFree

    Would you accept an argument blaming the Jews for hatred of them and violence towards them by the Germans?

    No? Well in that case, your demonising Muslims now is an open invitation to a new Holocaust.

    Now, granted, Israel (or top politicians in the Knesset) has so far only threatened to murder a few 10s of 1000s of Lebanese, all Palestinian politicians (including Israeli citizens!) and drown 100s in the Dead Sea, but their words are more threatening than anything that came from the Nazis.

    Or do you want us to believe there is nothing to be learned from the Holocaust?

  • andyFree

    Occupation is not illegal. What is illegal (and for very good reasons, think Lebensraum) is moving your citizens into the occupied region. Unless you're going to tell us the Nazis did nothing wrong, you have to oppose settlements.

    As does the whole of the world! Even including Israel's proxy, the US.

  • bearone7777

    The Holy-Land is not for sale, and I will be damned to hell if I do not say this. There is no President, or anybody else in this world that can tell Israel where to build on there own country. Remember I said COUNTRY. I a so fed-up with everybody is saying. If you do not know what you are saying please just shut up, and do not post. Israel does not need any IDIOTS posting anythng about what they have no knowledge of. Please just shut up and leave this site.