I consider the Obama administration’s recent actions against the Israeli government to be outrageous and a breach of trust. I refer to the denunciations by Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other administration officials The world knows what happened; nevertheless, I will try to put it into context.
Vice President Joe Biden was in Jerusalem to convey to the Israelis and the world that the United States government is committed to protecting and assuring the security of Israel from attack. While he was there, an Israeli government minister announced that the Israeli government had authorized the construction of 1,600 apartments in East Jerusalem to be occupied by Jews. Currently, 280,000 Jews live in East Jerusalem, and these apartments were to be added to an existing complex, built on land owned by Jews; about 250,000 Jews live on the West Bank outside of Jerusalem.
The timing of the Israeli government’s announcement was unfortunate and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized for it, but it did not mark any change in the Israeli government’s policy. That policy is and has long been to allow construction of homes for Jews in East Jerusalem.
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Now a little history. In 1947, the United Nations passed a resolution authorizing the creation of a Jewish state within the British Mandate of Palestine. After it declared independence in 1948, Israel was immediately attacked by the combined armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Although Israel repelled the attack, Jordan conquered East Jerusalem, separating it from its Western half. Ultimately, a cease fire was arranged by the U.N. and for the next 19 years until 1967, Jordan occupied East Jerusalem, including the old city, which historically had been the capital of King David’s ancient kingdom. In 1967, the Arab armies of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria again sought to destroy the State of Israel, but Israel prevailed in six days and conquered the Jordanian-held East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip. During the 19 years that Jordan occupied East Jerusalem, it expelled all of the Jews living in what was historically the Jewish Quarter, and literally destroyed every synagogue and the homes of the Jews. When Israel reunited all of Jerusalem, Jews were, of course, allowed to live in any part of the city, and today, more than a quarter of a million Jews live in East Jerusalem. Numerous Arabs live there as well.
For quite some time and certainly since the Gaza War, the Palestinian Authority has broken off direct negotiations with Israel which had been ongoing since about 1993, in an effort to create two states, one Jewish and one Palestinian, living side-by-side in peace. This so-called two-state solution always seemed out of reach, notwithstanding the efforts of Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to jumpstart negotiations.
President Obama has sought to revive the negotiations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. He called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to assist by committing Israel to stop building new apartments in East Jerusalem and new settlements on the West Bank. In a move that Hillary Clinton, according to The New York Times, praised as “unprecedented,” Netanyahu agreed to a ten-month settlement moratorium on the West Bank. However, he refused to stop Jews from living in any part of East Jerusalem, which is considered by Israelis to be an inseparable part of their capital. Both the Palestinian Authority and the U.S. government, ultimately accepted Netanyahu’s offer, albeit grudgingly, and the Palestinian Authority agreed to engage in indirect talks through the American mediator George Mitchell.
Given this history, it was a shock to the Israeli and American supporters of Israel to have Joe Biden, a great friend of Israel, make the extraordinary harsh statement he made denouncing the future construction of 1,600 apartments in East Jerusalem. The Vice President’s condemnation was even more baffling because, as The Times of March 12th reported, “he spent most [of the previous day] expressing his personal devotion to Israel, as well as the Obama administration’s ‘iron-clad commitment to Israel’s security.’” As someone high in political life once said to me after I mentioned to him the violation of his iron-clad commitment to me on a subject involving the mass transit fares in New York City, “Next time, get it in steel. Iron breaks.”
But even more disturbing than the Vice President’s reaction were the comments and implicit threats voiced by Hillary Clinton in a telephone conversation she had with Prime Minister Netanyahu, described in The Times of March 12th. “In a tense, 43-minute phone call on Friday morning, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel’s plan for new housing units for Jews in East Jerusalem sent a ‘deeply negative signal’ about Israeli-American relations.”
Under President Clinton and George W. Bush, Israeli Prime Ministers have offered the Palestinians a state of their own on virtually the entire West Bank and Gaza, with land swaps to compensate for any portion of the West Bank that would remain in Israel, but those offers were rejected by the Palestinians.
What is most disturbing about the truly harsh and inflammatory rhetoric of both Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton directed at the government of Israel, is that it is speculated President Obama himself may have ordered Biden and Clinton to make the statements they made. The Times of March 16th reported, “…the President was outraged by the announcement of 1,600 housing units in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in East Jerusalem during Mr. Biden’s visit, administration officials said. Mr. Obama was deeply involved in the strategy and planning for Mr. Biden’s visit and orchestrated the response from Mr. Biden and Mrs. Clinton after it went awry, these officials said.” President Obama and his administration’s overly harsh public reaction to the construction in East Jerusalem appears to have emboldened Israel’s enemies and provided a cover for their extremist views. It has also created a serious crisis of confidence among the Israeli public that it can depend on this administration for its security.
There will be an effort this week when Prime Minister Netanyahu meets with President Obama to mend fences. There will be huggy-kissy pictures with Hillary and handshakes by Bibi Netanyahu with Joe Biden and the President, but the relations will never be the same again. Humpty Dumpty has been broken and the absolute trust needed between allies is no longer there. How sad it is for the supporters of Israel who put their trust in President Obama.
Edward I. Koch, who served as mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989, is a partner in the law firm of Bryan Cave.
I concur with the other Mike
The Democratic Party of today is not the principled one of the past.
Biden did as he was told.
Hilary probably relished doing it.
3:25 a.m. / Thursday, March 25, 2010
Here, here, Mike. You are absoilutely right and that is why the Republican Jewish Coalition is growing its membership by leaps and bounds. Mayor Koch was actually too optimistic. As we now know, there were no "kissy huggy pictures" of Bibi with anyone from the administration. There were no pictures of Bibi ALLOWED AT ALL. I hope every Jew who voted for Obama is ready to atone for betraying Israel by worshipping the false god of liberalism. It didn't make anyone love you, did it?
9:48 p.m. / Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Ed, you're right, and by the way, you were my favorite judge on Peoples' Court.
10:08 a.m. / Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Mr. Koch, I commend you heartily for speaking out.
One of the few reasons that I voted for Obama was what I cautiously thought was his "support" for Israel. I wrote all my representatives that I regret deeply my vote for Obama, and that I will vote against any representative who supports him going forward.
9:17 a.m. / Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I'm a little surprised by the mayor and everyone else's surprise at this upset in U.S.-Israeli relations. Things like this don't happen by accident. They are carefully scripted to create a desired effect. In this case, a seeming rift between the U.S. and Israel that will allow for the "just around the corner" attack on Iran by Israel. This rift will be used by the U.S. to sheild itself from Israeli military action.
12:40 p.m. / Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Koch ought to join AIPAC and register as a foreign agent!
Mike:"Most Democrats of today are Israel's friend only when it's time to be elected to office."
I'm not sure if you have been following politics in the US, but that statement could be made of a lot of politicians, Republicans or Democrats.
So let's not get into that simplistic populist demagoguery to divert the readers' attention from real issues! Namely that today Israel and the US national interests might be diverging.
That you or Koch are still bent on worrying about what is good for Israel first before what is good for America is your right and prerogative.
I respect Ed Koch if not for his unbiased opinion, or his academic knowledge of history, at least for his service to his community and the country at large.
But we know now who in our society is more deserving of our soldiers' sacrifice.
11:24 a.m. / Tuesday, March 23, 2010
This is the most anti-Israeli president in the history of our great country...I am ashamed at how my country is treating Israel...blocking all arms sales to Israel and now this...this land was given to the Jews and Israelites 1000's of years ago...By God! Case closed.
11:18 a.m. / Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Good article by Mayor Koch. But, the problem is the Mayor sounds a little suprised at the turn of events. I don't understand how long it will take Jews to realize that today's Democratic Party is not your father's Party. The best friends of Israel today are found outside of the Democratic Pary, not inside it. Most Democrats of today are Israel's friend only when it's time to be elected to office.