Here’s a perfect example of the misleading use of the settlement issue, from a Palestinian source. Ma’an News tells us that,
According to the [Israel channel 10] report, the US administration suggested, and Israel was preparing to allow, the following in exchange for a guarantee from Abbas that the PLO would re-enter talks.
• Weapons for Palestinian Authority security forces
• Release of 400 Fatah prisoners from Israeli jails before the Muslim holiday of Eid
• Extending the PA’s West Bank jurisdiction in Area B to full control and Area C to partial control
Channel 10 reported that Abbas rejected all of these offers, sticking instead to his insistence that there be no negotiations while Israel’s borders continue to expand.
One doesn’t need to be a Ph.D like Mahmoud Abbas (Patrice Lumumba U., Moscow) to know the difference between building some apartments — more correctly, talking about building some apartments — in a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem, and ‘expanding borders’. But this is the Palestinian excuse for refusing to return to negotiations with Israel.
The real reason, which is a quite good one and one with which I agree, is that they don’t want to negotiate since they know that their bottom line and Israel’s are so far apart. The PLO won’t — can’t — recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and will not accept a demilitarized Palestine. And they’ve also sold the idea that a ‘two-state solution’ includes the right of return. It really doesn’t matter if Abbas is ready to compromise on these issues or not, since he wouldn’t survive politically or physically if he did. So he prefers to blame it on Israel.
What I find particularly upsetting is our president and Secretary of State taking the same line. And they do, every time they use the highly misleading phrase ‘settlement construction’ to refer to any building activity — or even planning activity — in the area that was occupied by Jordan in 1948, especially Jerusalem.
There is a consensus in Israel that Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem are not settlements, regardless of where the cease-fire line happened to fall in 1949.
Recently there’s been some excitement over the fact that a US passport issued to a citizen born in Jerusalem — any part of it — will not say ‘Jerusalem, Israel’ but rather only ‘Jerusalem’ for the place of birth. This is consistent with the American point of view.
The UN and the US in point of fact, do not recognize that Israel has any rights in Jerusalem, East or West. But in this view, neither do the Palestinians! The original UN partition resolution of 1947 and UN General Assembly Resolution 303 of 1949 call for all of Jerusalem to be internationalized, and the US State Department still holds this position.
It’s easy to forget that in 1967 Israel did not capture Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem from the Palestinians. These were part of the Palestine Mandate, which included the Balfour Declaration — the charter for a Jewish national home. The Jordanian occupation of this area was illegal, the product of a war of aggression. Israel annexed Jerusalem in 1980, when it declared that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.”
In his book Power, Faith, and Fantasy, Michael Oren discusses the anti-Zionism of the professional diplomats of the State Department of the 1920’s – 1950’s, many of them descendants of Protestant missionaries whose restorationism had been rebuffed by stiff-necked Jews [p. 423]. There is still a strong Arabist influence, although Daniel Pipes suggests that it has been replaced by that of the ‘peace processors’ (an improvement in attitude that nevertheless hasn’t produced better policy). But the unfair and unrealistic attitude about Jerusalem may be the Arabists’ legacy.
If the US wishes to see itself as truly a friend of Israel it can drop this unique and insulting policy, not adopted toward any other nation in the world that I can think of, in which it denies a nation sovereignty over its own capital. This would not be inconsistent with the idea that some neighborhoods could change hands in a peace agreement, just as Israel’s annexation — which does not specify the boundaries of Jerusalem in detail — is not.
We could begin by having the President and the Secretary of State stop speaking in ways which they may think show sophisticated studied ambiguity, but really prevent clear thinking about important issues.
It wouldn’t hurt to put the US embassy in Jerusalem, either.