What Barack Obama said about peace
President Obama made the fullest and most complete case for peace and the two-state solution that I have heard from any world leader today in his speech in Jerusalem. Touching on the legacies of Yitzhak Rabin and Menachem Begin, and drawing on the work of Ariel Sharon and the novelist David Grossman, Obama told Israeli students that peace is necessary, peace is just, and peace is possible.
On the necessity of peace:
I believe that peace is the only path to true security. You have the opportunity to be the generation that permanently secures the Zionist dream, or you can face a growing challenge to its future. Given the demographics west of the Jordan River, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine.
There are other factors involved. Given the frustration in the international community about this conflict, Israel needs to reverse an undertow of isolation. And given the march of technology, the only way to truly protect the Israeli people over the long term is through the absence of war, because no wall is high enough and no Iron Dome is strong enough or perfect enough to stop every enemy that is intent on doing so from inflicting harm.
And this truth is more pronounced given the changes sweeping the Arab world. I understand that with the uncertainty in the region, people in the streets, changes in leadership, the rise of nonsecular parties in politics, it’s tempting to turn inward because the situation outside of Israel seems so chaotic. But this is precisely the time to respond to the wave of revolution with a resolve and commitment for peace, because as more governments respond to popular will, the days when Israel could seek peace simply with a handful of autocratic leaders — those days are over.
President Obama goes to Israel
President Obama will land in at Ben Gurion International Airport at around noon on Wednesday, March 20, where he will be greeted by President Peres and Prime Minister Netanyahu prior to an official welcome at the president’s residence. Hereafter, he will go to Yad Vashem in order to lay a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance.
Thereafter, Obama will visit Mount Herzl, where he will lay wreathes on the tombs of Theodor Herzl and Yitzhak Rabin.
In the afternoon, Obama will conduct meetings with Netanyahu and various delegations in order to discuss the security situation in the region as well as the peace process. After a press conference, Obama and Netanyahu will take supper together, along with their staffs.
Mondoweiss, The Gift That Keeps On Giving
It is important from time to time to check in Mondoweiss just to confirm my suspicions. It is necessary to make sure that it is still, as someone put it to me the other day, the Washington Free Beacon of the left: an ideological organ masquerading as a news organisation. After all, just because Mondoweiss has suggested in the recent past that Tel Aviv is a ghetto and the embodiment of the failed Zionist dream, that Hanukkah celebrates murder and blood lust, and that the Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel is a Court Jew, doesn’t mean they will go on saying these outrageous things forever, right?
I needn’t have worried. Thankfully, Mondoweiss remains a kind of gift that keeps on giving — or, a foul-tasting dinner that keeps on repeating. First, on January 10, Tom Suarez wrote what was supposed, I imagine, to be a cartographic history of the conflict over Jerusalem. Not that it worked out that way:
The capital of Israel is and always has been Tel Aviv.
Hardly a good note to begin on. The seat of government has been in the west of Jerusalem since December 1949 and thus is the de facto capital of Israel. Tel Aviv was the seat of power for a brief period between May 1948 and December 1949 until the shift towards Jerusalem. That said, it remains host to the world’s embassies and consulates, until such a time as the final status of Jerusalem is resolved through negotiations with the Palestinians (who will receive the Arab neighbourhoods as their capital). But, do carry on:
The 1947 UN Partition Resolution that created the Israeli state stipulated that Jerusalem would be an open, international city administered by the UN. But like the Partition itself, this was not to be: Zionist forces quickly seized most of the city, with both David Ben-Gurion and his political nemesis Menachem Begin vowing never to relinquish it, and Jordan’s Abdullah I taking East Jerusalem and the West Bank in exchange for delaying any Arab defense.
I’m always concerned by people who use the formulation “Zionist forces” as opposed to, say, Israeli troops or in this context the Haganah, but that isn’t the most egregious error here. As Suarez wilfully ignores, the implementation of the United Nations’ Partition Plan was made impossible by Arab nations’ refusal to recognise it as valid. Israeli forces did indeed push eastward towards Jerusalem during the Arab-Israeli War, a conflict initiated by an attempt by five Arab states, Palestinian forces, and other mercenaries and volunteers from across the Middle East to destroy the Yishuv and the nascent State of Israel.
Jerusalem, In Brief
Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
Jerusalem has been essential to the Jewish people as the centre of spiritual life since the construction of the First Temple in 957 BC and the gradual transition from polytheism to monotheism codified under the age of Kings Hezekiah and Josiah in the 8th and 7th centuries BC. Jerusalem is also a political centre, the City of David and the seat of kings, and since 1949 it has been home to the Knesset, the Supreme Court, and the other organs of the world’s one and only democratic and Jewish state.As David Ben-Gurion stated in December 1949:
We see fit to state that Jewish Jerusalem is an organic, inseparable part of the State of Israel, just as it is an integral part of Jewish history and belief….Jerusalem is the heart of the State of Israel.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, it is essential that the United States government does not recognise this to be so via a relocation of their embassy until the final status of Jerusalem under international law has been resolved. For just as the Palestinian people make a good claim to part of the Land of Israel, so too do they wish to make their capital one day in the sector of Jerusalem east of the Green Line that was occupied in 1967 and annexed in 1980. Palestinian families with property deeds can trace their claim to homes in Sheikh Jarrah and Abu Tor to even before the beginning of the British Mandate.
Pictures from a Small Country
After three months in Israel, see below a compendium of the photographs I blogged for your consumption:-
- Jerusalem (April 9, 2012)
- Tel Aviv (April 14, 2012)
- Kibbutz Ein Hashofet (April 16, 2012)
- Nazareth (April 27, 2012)
- Ma’ale Adumim (May 20, 2012)
- Kibbutz Ein Gev (June 5, 2012)
- Jaffa (June 8, 2012)
- Nimrod Fortress, Golan Heights (June 14, 2012)
- Hermon Stream (June 14, 2012)
- Tel Dan (June 15, 2012)
- Metula (June 16, 2012)
- The Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem (June 24, 2012)
- Masada (June 25, 2012)
Whither Ma’ale Adumim?
MA’ALE ADUMIM, Palestinian Territories – After the bus from Jerusalem exits the tunnel which runs underneath the university at Mount Scopus, any connection to the city is shredded and disposed of, as the landscape shifts from urban jungle to arid hilltops speckled with deep green pine trees and puddles of concrete. Yet while the physical environment dramatically alters, it feels as though no political boundary has been crossed, in spite of the fact that the bus has, technically speaking, driven straight across the Green Line.
The other thing to note when visiting Ma’ale Adumim on a weekday morning is its stillness, its ghostly aura. Settlements on the West Bank are often spoken of in the abstract, as if the towns have no residents or perhaps more accurately as if ‘the settlers’ are one homogenous block with no distinct characteristics or fault lines.
In Ma’ale Adumim at least, while the residents have taken an active decision to reside in this most controversial of settings, a good proportion of the city’s inhabitants are merely commuters who work in Jerusalem by day and travel back to their homes and families on the E1 highway as the sun sets. They live, as it were, a normal existence in a most extraordinary setting.
Ma’ale Adumim has the dishonour of competing with Ariel – “the heart of Israel”, according to Benjamin Netanyahu – to be the most controversial Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank. Established by a few families in 1975, it has grown with tremendous encouragement from the central government into a city of nearly 40,000 people, complete with shopping mall, library, schools, sports facilities, parks, and playgrounds. The quality of life and subsided cost of housing and living attracts olim from the United States and the former Soviet Union in particular.