When does an ally cease to be an ally? This painful question is being asked by many Israelis after another blistering American attack on Israel’s sovereignty in its capital city, Jerusalem.
In a move certain to increase tensions between Israel and the United States, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest publicly criticized Israel for allowing the continuation of the planning process for homes in the Givat Hamatos area in south Jerusalem. Not skipping a beat, State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki followed suit and sharpened the dagger, saying “This development will only draw condemnation from the international community, distance Israel from even its closest allies, poison the atmosphere not only with the Palestinians but also with the very Arab governments with which Prime Minister Netanyahu said he wanted to build relations,” Psaki was quoted as having told a briefing.
This very public American disrespect of a reliable ally’s sovereignty is shocking, and it should be condemned by Israeli officials in the strongest language. There is absolutely no reason why Israeli officials should feel the need, as they apparently did, to justify their actions with apologetic statements about how the Givat Hamatos project was just a “technical step” taken at the local level on a plan approved at the regional level over two years ago.
Instead, Prime Minister Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu should immediately cease being apologetic and defensive in responding to this recurring, blatant assault on Israel’s sovereignty. Yes, Bibi was correct to complain about the implication by American officials that Israel should discriminate against Jews, but he should also respond forcefully that if President Barack Obama was a true friend of Israel, he wouldn’t criticize the granting of building permits for homes for Israeli citizens in Israel’s capital city, Jerusalem. Would Obama dare to criticize building approvals in Riyadh, in Amman, or in Cairo? This needs to be stated and stated clearly.
However, words are not enough. Binyamin Netanyahu has always been a powerful speaker, but the reality on the ground usually contradicts his words. Netanyahu has, in fact, been one of the least proactive prime ministers when it comes to advancing building projects in Jerusalem. Notwithstanding his bold statements about Israel’s eternal capital, where the prophets spoke and where kings of Israel such as David and Solomon ruled 3,000 years ago, and which Israel liberated in the Six Day War of 1967, Bibi has been pathetically weak in asserting Israel’s rights in its capital city.
Sadly, the lack of action speaks louder than the impressive words. The always spoken about, but never advanced, E-1 building project in the large forsaken area between Jerusalem’s French Hill neighborhood and the city of Maale Adumim to its east, is a glaring example of that weakness under pressure.
It’s time to stop complaining about American statements and to start acting. One doesn’t have to go back too far in history to see how prime ministers such as Menachem Begin and Yitzchak Shamir ignored international pressure and aggressively advanced the building of whole neighborhoods like Pisgat Ze’ev and Givat Ze’ev in the liberated areas of eastern and northern Jerusalem. We Israelis have nothing to apologize for and a lot to be proud of. Let’s start being faithful to our statements about our deep roots in this land. Let’s take real action to advance the building process in our capital city. E-1 would be a very good start.
Reprinted with author’s permission