Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approached the peace talks in Washington last week uttering words and phrases we’ve not heard from him before, i.e., “President Abbas, you are my partner. … I see in you a partner for peace. … I am fully aware and I respect your people’s desire for sovereignty.”
The questions are myriad: Is he simply trying to appease President Obama before it becomes necessary to attack Iran? Is relinquishing part of the West Bank compulsory in order to acquire approval from the Obama administration for a direct strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities? Will he include Judea and Samaria in his talks with Mahmoud Abbas? After all, Mr. Netanyahu uttered the dreaded words “concede territory.” Perhaps for the first time in his political career, he is walking in the footsteps of those prime ministers before him.
His nemesis, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, is to lead the next round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians in Jerusalem, starting Wednesday. The setting dramatically focuses attention on the core issue of Jerusalem, particularly after Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced his plan to redivide the city in an eventual peace deal.
Mr. Barak set tongues wagging in March, when he told al Jazeera that some Jerusalem neighborhoods might become part of a Palestinian capital. “We can find a formula under which certain neighborhoods, heavily populated Arab neighborhoods, could become, in a peace agreement, part of the Palestinian capital that, of course, will include also the neighboring villages around Jerusalem,” Mr. Barak said.
This assertion was not surprising, given Mr. Barak’s record. When he was prime minister, he pulled the Israel Defense Forces out of Lebanon, proposed giving the Golan Heights back to Syria and even offered the late and unlamented Yasser Arafat the Temple Mount.
Mr. Barak’s “solution” for Jerusalem, as he floated it again on Sept. 1: “West Jerusalem and 12 Jewish neighborhoods that are home to 200,000 residents will be ours. The Arab neighborhoods in which close to a quarter-million Palestinians live will be theirs. There will be a special regime in place along with agreed-upon arrangements in the Old City, the Mount of Olives and the City of David.”
Is this the same Ehud Barak, who as prime minister publicly declared on Jerusalem Day, in June 2000 - marking the city’s reunification in the Six-Day War - that Israel’s sovereign capital would never again be divided?
“Jerusalem shall forever remain ours, because it is in our souls. Never again will Jerusalem be under foreign sovereignty. Only someone who has no sense of reality, who does not understand anything about Israel’s yearning and longing and the Jewish people’s historical connection to Jerusalem for over 3,000 years would even consider making any concessions over the city,” Mr. Barak said a decade ago.
The topic of a united Jerusalem has bound the Jewish people together for about 3,000 years. It stands as the eternal, undivided city of God. It was King David’s capital and housed both the First and Second temples, whose only remains is the Western Wall, where the Jewish people gather to pray each day.
Between 1948 and 1967, under Jordanian oversight, conditions in Jerusalem were deplorable, even by medieval standards. Jews were barred from worshipping at the Western Wall, the Jewish quarter in the Old City was destroyed, and synagogues were demolished. Three-fourths of the tombstones in the Mount of Olives Cemetery were ripped out and used to build a hotel and pave a path leading to army latrines. Many Christians were denied access to their revered holy sites.
Having experienced Arab rule in part of Jerusalem, why would Mr. Barak again want to subject the Jewish people and Christians worldwide to such indignity? Israeli prime ministers have allowed themselves to be dragged from one bargaining table to another and have been forced to give up land for a peace that has never materialized. The only things the Jewish people have received from the Palestinians have been two intifadas, terrorist attacks too numerous to recount, civilians maimed and slaughtered, and the disdain of the world at large.
Ehud Barak has tried before to give Jerusalem to the Palestinians. Will his plan prevail at the bargaining table? Which Ehud Barak is the real one regarding Jerusalem? Maybe this doesn’t matter; maybe Benjamin Netanyahu has the same position today that he stated at the Jerusalem Conference in January 2009:
“We have demonstrated in the past and will continue to demonstrate our commitment to a complete, undivided Jerusalem. … Everyone knows what will happen if we were to leave those areas and divide Jerusalem. Someone will enter - and that someone will be Hamas.”
Jerusalem has been a bone in the throat of the world. It is one of the most ancient capitals not recognized as a capital. International leaders think they can play a tune and Israel will respond like a cobra in the basket of a snake charmer. There is no fear of being bitten. They should beware the venom of the cobra.
The ancient prophet Zachariah cried out, “I will make Jerusalem a cup that will send all the surrounding people reeling … an immovable rock for all nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves.”