In His Confrontation with Israel, the President Has Jewish Help

Since coming to office, President Obama and his advisers have regularly proclaimed their love and concern for the Jewish state while pursuing policies that put Israel at risk and undermine the U.S.-Israel alliance. In this, writes Sohrab Ahmari, the administration has had the witting and unwitting help of Jewish activists:

Founded in 2008, J Street . . . was to be a “home for pro-Israel, pro-peace” Americans who worry that Israel’s failure to extricate itself from the lives of some five million Palestinians will soon threaten its status as either a Jewish or a democratic state. If Israelis on their own lacked the will to make the necessary sacrifices to achieve a two-state solution, then it was up to progressive American Jews to bring peace, by pressing the levers of U.S. power if need be.

To meet this aim without abetting Israel’s enemies would have required immense ideological discipline on the part of the new lobby. J Streeters would have had to take seriously the perils facing the Jewish state, including Iran’s nuclearization, the rise of political Islam, and the campaign in elite quarters to delegitimize Israel. They would have to respect the sovereign decisions of the Israelis, recognizing that it is they—not American Jews with anguished consciences—who would have to pay the price in blood for any ill-conceived land-for-peace schemes. And they would have to retain a sense of perspective about the relative importance of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. . . .

As it soon became clear, however, J Street’s leaders had entirely different notions of what it means to be pro-Israel. J Street has flirted with elements of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement and lobbied against congressional sanctions on Iran. . . . Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami has refused to say whether his organization is Zionist.

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More about: Barack Obama, BDS, Hasbara, Israel & Zionism, J Street, US-Israel relations

 

Jerusalem’s Economic Crisis, Its Arabs, and Its Future

Oct. 18 2018

The population of Israel’s capital city is 38-percent Arab, making Arab eastern Jerusalem the largest Arab community in the country. Connected to this fact is Jerusalem’s 46-percent poverty rate—the highest of any Israeli municipality. The city’s economic condition stems in part from its large ultra-Orthodox population, but there is also rampant poverty among its Arab residents, whose legal status is different from that of both Arab Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. Haviv Rettig Gur explains:

Jerusalem’s Arab inhabitants are not Israeli citizens—in part because Palestinian society views acceptance of Israeli citizenship, [available to any Arab Jerusalemite who desires it], as acceptance of Israeli claims of sovereignty over the city, and in part because Israel is not eager to accept them, even as it formally views itself as having annexed the area. Nevertheless, they have a form of permanent residency that, unlike West Bank Palestinians, allows them unimpeded access to the rest of Israel. . . .

There are good reasons for this poverty among eastern Jerusalem’s Arabs, rooted in the political trap that has ensnared the Arab half of the city and with it the rest of the city as well. Right-wing Israeli political leaders have avoided investing in Arab eastern Jerusalem, fearing that such investments would increase the flow of Palestinians into the city. Left-wing leaders have done the same on the grounds that the Arab half would be given away in a future peace deal.

Meanwhile, eastern Jerusalem’s complicated situation, suspended between the Israeli and Palestinian worlds, means residents cannot take full advantage of their access to the Israeli economy. For example, while most Arab women elsewhere in Israel learn usable Hebrew in school, most Arab schools in eastern Jerusalem teach from the Palestinian curriculum, which does not offer students the Hebrew they will need to find work in the western half of the city. . . .

It is not unreasonable to argue that Jerusalem cannot really be divided, not for political reasons but for economic ones. If Jerusalem remains a solely Israeli capital, it will have to integrate better its disparate parts and massively develop its weaker communities if it hopes ever to become solvent and prosperous. Arabs must be able to find more and better work in Jewish Jerusalem—and in Arab Jerusalem, too. Conversely, if the city is divided into two capitals, that of a Jewish state and that of a Palestinian one, that won’t change the underlying economic reality that its prosperity, its capacity to accommodate tourism and develop efficient infrastructure, and its ability to ensure access for all religions to their many holy sites, will still require a unified urban space.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Israeli economy, Jerusalem