- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 10, 2001

With less than two weeks until he leaves office, President Clinton seems to have taken leave of his senses. Now he is proposing that Jerusalem serve as two capitals, with a U.S. embassy in each. At the same time, he told his American-Jewish audience at the Waldolf- Astoria on Sunday that the city would still be undivided. This would seem to be a metaphysical impossibility.

If an American had his passport stolen by a Palestinian while visiting a Jewish neighborhood, which American embassy would he visit? Which court would the thief be tried in: Palestinian, Israeli, or a power-sharing institution? Would an Israeli officer arresting the thief provide evidence to a Palestinian judge? Aside from the logistical challenges, the proposal flies in the face of fundamental Israeli beliefs that Jerusalem's sacredness is shattered if it is divided.

More than 100,000 demonstrators gathered in Jerusalem Monday to protest Mr. Clinton's proposal, which also calls for shared control of the city's holy sites and Palestinian control of Arab neighborhoods. There would be an international presence in Palestine along the Jordan Valley to prevent violence, according to the proposals, and a Palestinian state would cover 95 percent of the West Bank and all of Gaza. Israel's resigned leader, Ehud Barak, and Israel's long-time ally, the United States, seemed to be betraying the Israeli people for the purpose of gaining acclaim or in Mr. Barak's case, re-election for their roles in a peace process which is close to dead.

"Don't be the first president in the history of your country to propose the division of the historical and eternal capital of the Jewish people," Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert advised Mr. Clinton in an address to the demonstrators.

"It's a pity that Clinton, who was such a great friend of Israel during his eight years in office, is the first president of the United States to suggest dividing Jerusalem," Mr. Olmert told the crowd, as reported by Reuters.

In attempting to at least create a framework for a peace deal before he leaves office, Mr. Clinton is helping destroy the peace process itself. If concessions not backed by the Israeli people are written into such a framework, it will create obstacles for both the Bush administration and for the next Israeli government.

But Mr. Clinton, who apparently knows the Israeli situation better than any of those having to live amidst violence in Israel, told Israelis they had no choice other than to give up. "You discovered that your land is also their land, the homeland of two peoples," he said in his Sunday address, reported in The New York Times. "There is no choice but for you to divide this land into two states for two people and make the best of it."

The Israeli people and the Palestinians who didn't back the proposals because they were told their refugees didn't have a right of return to Israel aren't yet ready for such dictations from an American president. Nor should they be.

Mr. Clinton's lone moment of enlightenment during his Sunday evening speech came with his acknowledgment that his proposals were not an expression of a new U.S. policy. "These parameters originated with me, and will go with me when I leave office." Thank goodness for that.

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