Prime Minister Netanyahu’s apology to Vice President Biden – for authorizing the construction of Jewish homes in Jerusalem during Biden’s visit – departs sharply from the assertive legacy of all Israeli Prime Ministers from Ben Gurion (1948) to Shamir (1992). It is consistent with the retreating Oslo state of mind, which has afflicted all Prime Ministers since 1993. This apologetic response ignores the significant “Jerusalem Divide” between the dramatically-weakened President Obama on one hand and the majority of the American People and Congress on the other hand. Moreover, it triggers further pressure by Obama, radicalizes Arab demands, undermines the future of Jerusalem as the indivisible capital of the Jewish State, and erodes Israel’s strategic posture in Washington and in the Middle East. Placating President Obama will certainly not transform his position on Iran from engagement to confrontation and will not produce a Green Light for an Israeli attack on Iran.
In 1949, the US Administration, Europe and the UN exerted brutal pressure on Prime Minister Ben Gurion to accept the internationalization of Jerusalem. Ben Gurion’s response was decisive, in spite of his inferior position militarily, economically, demographically, technologically, diplomatically and politically, compared with today’s Israel. Ben Gurion proclaimed Jerusalem the capital of the Jewish State, relocated government agencies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, expanded housing construction all the way to the ceasefire lines, directed a massive number of Olim (immigrants) to Jerusalem and upgraded the transportation infrastructure to the city. Ben Gurion’s determination and defiance clarified to the US that Jerusalem was non-negotiable. It accorded Jerusalem the land required for security and development for the next generation. It sent a clear message of credible deterrence and tenacity to Israel’s enemies and friends.
In 1967, the very powerful President Lyndon Johnson and the international community cautioned Prime Minister Eshkol against the reunification of Jerusalem and against any construction beyond the pre-1967 ceasefire lines, lest it severely undermine Israel’s global standing. Eshkol replied firmly by annexing the Old City, the eastern suburbs of Jerusalem and substantial land reserves and building the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood beyond the pre-1967 ceasefire lines. Thus, Eshkol reaffirmed the image of Israel – in Washington – as a dependable US ally on “rainy days.”
In 1970-1, Prime Minister Golda Meir defied the (Secretary of State) Rogers Plan, which was submitted by President Nixon at the height of his popularity. The Plan called for Israel’s retreat to the pre-1967 lines and for the transfer of Jerusalem’s Holy Basin to the auspices of the three leading religions. Defiantly, Prime Minister Meir laid the groundwork for a series of neighborhoods in Jerusalem (beyond the pre-1967 ceasefire lines): Neve’ Ya’akov, Gilo, Ramot Alon and French Hill. These neighborhoods – with over 100,000 residents – provided Jerusalem with the land required for further development. Golda’s defiance caused short-term tension between Jerusalem and Washington, but generated long-term respect toward the Jewish State.
Prime Ministers Begin and Shamir sent a clear message to the White House: “Jerusalem is not negotiable!”
That non-wavering message has been consistent with the American state of mind. For instance, twenty five towns in the United States – from Massachusetts to Oregon – bear the name of Jerusalem – Salem. It reflects the unique bonds that exist – since the 17th century Pilgrims and the Founding Fathers – between the USA and the Jewish capital, the Jewish State and Judaism.
The US Congress – the most authentic representation of the American People, therefore a systematic supporter of the Jewish State and equal in power to the President – has passed a series of bills and resolutions, reaffirming the role of Jerusalem, as the indivisible capital of the Jewish State and the appropriate site for the US embassy in Israel. Democrats are concerned that Obama’s assault on Jerusalem would haunt them during the November 2010 election.
US constituents and their representatives on Capitol Hill are aware that 3,000 years before President Obama entered the White House, and 2,770 years before the US gained its independence, King David entered Jerusalem – the Heart of the Jewish People. However, in contrast to the vast majority of Americans and their representatives on Capitol Hill, President Obama wishes to repartition Jerusalem to prohibit legal Jewish construction, while enticing wide spread illegal Arab construction in Jerusalem – the city which inspired the Founding Fathers of the USA.
The battle over Jerusalem requires the Jewish State to join forces with the American public and its representatives on Capitol Hill. This is the time to resurrect the 1999 Lieberman-Kyl initiative – to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem – which was co-sponsored by 84 Senators. This is the time to encourage Israel’s friends on the Hill, and especially the Chairmen of the Congressional and Senatorial campaign committees, to revisit bills and resolutions, which highlight Jerusalem’s indivisibility as the capital of Israel.
Securing the future of Jerusalem behooves Netanyahu to follow in the footsteps of Ben Gurion, Eshkol, Golda Meir, Begin and Shamir, displaying steadfastness and, sometimes, defiance of an American President.
On the other hand, submission to pressure by President Obama – who is increasingly considered a burden by Democratic legislators – would jeopardize the future of the Jewish Capital. It would also raise a severe concern: Is a government which wavers on Jerusalem capable of securing the Golan Heights, Judea and Samaria? Is it capable of preempting the Iranian nuclear wrath, in defiance of the US and the world at-large if necessary?