No Compromise Over Jerusalem

Arab rioting and violence betray the folly of negotiations over East Jerusalem.

No sooner did the Obama administration denounce Israel for its building activities in Jerusalem than hordes of violent Palestinian thugs took to the city’s streets. As usual, the Palestinians decided to show the world how sacred Jerusalem is to them by filling it with violence.

That the Arab riots followed so closely after the Obama administration’s very public recriminations against Israel was no coincidence. Vice President Biden, a self-proclaimed Zionist, had trouble containing his anger at Israel. On an official state visit to Israel, his Kodak moments were interrupted when an Israeli official announced that Israel has plans to build a lot of new housing in East Jerusalem. Biden was aghast at the chutzpah. Secretary of State Clinton issued a series of shrill verbal attacks against Israel. Talk about a “disproportionate response!”

To put the Obama Administration’s temper tantrum over Jerusalem into perspective, one has to try to imagine the following reasoning. How dare the Jews construct housing in their own capital? Just because Washington builds housing in the District of Columbia without asking its allies for permission does not mean that the Israelis can build the same way in their capital! Don’t those Israelis realize that the United States has plans to transfer East Jerusalem to the terrorists of the Palestinian Authority or its Hamas overlords?

The official American anger has yet to die down. The State Department is in a huff over Israel allowing Jews to move into the Simon the Righteous neighborhood in East Jerusalem, also known as Sheikh Jarrah. You may recall that Sheikh Jarrah was where a horrific massacre of a convoy of Jewish medical personnel headed for the Hadassah Hospital on Mt. Scopus took place in 1948. Seventy nine Jews were murdered in cold blood and their bodies mutilated.

East Jerusalem was made Judenrein, with its Jews ethnically cleansed, in Israel’s 1948-49 war of independence. Before that Jews had lived in East Jerusalem almost without interruption since King David conquered it. Those attacking Israel are insisting that it leave that crime of ethnic cleansing in tact, un-redressed.

So why does the State Department object to Jews moving into homes in East Jerusalem, homes they legally and legitimately own? One answer may be that the State Department plans to force Israel to turn East Jerusalem over to some future Palestinian terror state, and that will be harder to do if East Jerusalem is filled up with Jews. But that is precisely the reason why Israel should build housing in East Jerusalem.

Israel’s position should be simply that if the Arab world refuses to come to terms and make peace with an Israel controlling all of Jerusalem, then we do not believe that they will come to terms or make peace with any Israel that has relinquished Jerusalem either. The Arabs can threaten Israel all they want about the dire consequences if Israel refuses to turn Jerusalem over to them. Israel’s response should be, “You can’t have it, period.”

And if there were any doubts as to who has the moral and legal right to control East Jerusalem, they were removed in the violent rioting by Palestinians over the opening of the rebuilt Hurva synagogue this week. Tradition has it that it stands on the site of synagogues going back to the second century AD. One synagogue standing there in the 1700s was destroyed, leading to the nickname of the site, the “Hurva” or “the Destruction.”  A later synagogue was constructed on the site in 1864. It remained there until Jordanian soldiers, who were illegally holding the Old City after 1948, demolished it.

The Hurva synagogue is nowhere near the Mosque of al-Aqsa or any other Islamic shrines in Jerusalem. It is located close to the Ramban or Nachmanides synagogue, which was converted by the pro-Nazi Grand Mufti into a mosque in 1948 and used as a factory under the Jordanian occupation. The Arabs have absolutely no legitimate claims to the site. Indeed, the reign of intentional destruction carried out by Jordan after 1948 should nullify altogether once and for all any claims the Arab world has to East Jerusalem.

Under Arab rule (by Jordan), the religious shrines of Jerusalem were systematically demolished, profaned and violated. Under Israeli rule, every religious group is free to practice its religion in Jerusalem and its shrines are protected. Thus, Arabs forfeited any moral claims they might have once had to govern the city when they trashed the Jewish shrines of the city. And if Arabs continue to take to violence when Jews open a synagogue, then there is only one conclusion that Israel can draw: there is nothing to negotiate.