US President Barack Obama, while saying for a second time on Monday that there was “positive movement” in Netanyahu’s speech, called once again at a press conference in the White House, alongside visiting Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, for a “cessation of settlements.”
“And there is a tendency to try to parse exactly what this means,” Obama said, “but I think the parties on the ground understand that if you have a continuation of settlements that, in past agreements, have been categorized as illegal, that’s going to be an impediment to progress.”
Leave aside for now the famously accomplished speaker Barack Obama’s sudden inability to distinguish between nouns and verbs, first apparent in his Cairo speech where he said that “It is time for these settlements to stop” — stop doing what? — and yet again when he calls for a “cessation of settlements” and opposes a “continuation” of them.
Let’s go from the abstract to the concrete and talk about settlements.
Kfar Etzion is a ‘settlement’: it is east of the 1949 armistice line which is also called the ‘Green Line’. Here is an excerpt from something I wrote about it last December (“No room for Jews“):
One of the places that the Palestinians do not wish to compromise on is Kibbutz Kfar Etzion, south of Jerusalem. Part of the Palestine Mandate from 1917 to 1948, and the Ottoman empire before that, it was purchased from local Arabs and settled by Yemenite Jews in 1927. They lived there on and off (they were driven out several times by Arab riots) until 1948 when the invading Jordanian army overran it and executed all but four of its defenders. All of the West Bank and East Jerusalem were made Jew-free by the Jordanians, who illegally occupied the area until 1967, when the kibbutz was reestablished.
So what I am asking Obama to explain is exactly how is Kibbutz Kfar Etzion illegal?
And consider another ‘settlement’, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. Jews had lived there from biblical times, but here is how it became free of Jews in 1948:
In 1948 during the Arab-Israeli War, its population of about 2,000 Jews was besieged, and forced to leave en masse. Colonel Abdullah el-Tal, local commander of the Jordanian Arab Legion, with whom Mordechai Weingarten negotiated the surrender terms, described the destruction of the Jewish Quarter, in his Memoirs (Cairo, 1959):
“… The operations of calculated destruction were set in motion…. I knew that the Jewish Quarter was densely populated with Jews who caused their fighters a good deal of interference and difficulty…. I embarked, therefore, on the shelling of the Quarter with mortars, creating harassment and destruction…. Only four days after our entry into Jerusalem the Jewish Quarter had become their graveyard. Death and destruction reigned over it…. As the dawn of Friday, May 28, 1948, was about to break, the Jewish Quarter emerged convulsed in a black cloud – a cloud of death and agony.”
How can it be that it is — in Obama’s view — illegal for Jews to live in the ancient Jewish Quarter of the old city of Jerusalem?
In general, how is it that the 19-year Jordanian and Egyptian occupation managed to transform parts of Mandatory Palestine into places like Saudi Arabia, where Jews are forbidden to live?
Explain this, Mr. Obama. And while you’re at it, explain the significance — since it is obviously not an accident — of your strange and ungrammatical way of talking about settlements.