PM can’t for­get thee, O Jerusalem, even when he is talk­ing peace

Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By TO­VAH LAZAROFF

It’s hard to hear the peace bells ring when lis­ten­ing to ei­ther the Is­raeli or Pales­tinian leader.

They might chime pleas­antly in Wash­ing­ton, Paris or Cairo, but the dis­so­nant war of words be­tween Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu and Pales­tinian Author­ity Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas seems carved in stone, par­tic­u­larly when preach­ing to their home choir.

No peace cli­mate has yet been cre­ated to budge these two lead­ers from a set of terms the other finds un­ac­cept­able. It is for this rea­son many have aban­doned any hope of a res­o­lu­tion.

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter and Bayit Ye­hudi head Naf­tali Bennett noted the ob­vi­ous on Sun­day night, say­ing, “You can’t be for the Land of Is­rael in He­brew and cre­ate a Pales­tinian state in English.”

But that hasn’t stopped Ne­tanyahu from do­ing pre­cisely that.

In this, he is no dif­fer­ent than Ab­bas, who in Cairo last month eas­ily dis­missed some of the ba­sic Is­raeli foun­da­tions for any peace deal, in­clud­ing recog­ni­tion of Is­rael as the na­tional home­land of the Jews.

Ab­bas also con­tin­ued to call for a two-state so­lu­tion at the pre-1967 lines, a move which Is­rael con­sid­ers sui­ci­dal from a se­cu­rity, his­tor­i­cal and re­li­gious per­spec­tive.

This would in­clude, of course, Jerusalem’s Old City, in­clud­ing the Tem­ple Mount and its West­ern Wall.

“We will never aban­don the Ko­tel [West­ern Wall],” Ne­tanyahu pledged on Sun­day.

It’s pre­sumed that these, the holi­est sites in Ju­daism, would be part of Is­rael in any peace deal, even though the third-holi­est Is­lamic site - the Al-Haram Al Sharif com­pound, with its al-Aksa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock – are lo­cated on the same site.

But while right-wing law­mak­ers, chief among them Ne­tanyahu, in­sist that all of Jerusalem will re­main un­der Is­rael sovereignty, it is hard to imag­ine a two-state so­lu­tion the Pales­tini­ans would ac­cept that does not in­clude at least a di­vi­sion of the city along the lines of al­ready ex­ist­ing Jewish and Arab neigh­bor­hoods.

But no right-wing politi­cian can say that, and even cen­trist left-wing ones are hes­i­tant.

The words of the bib­li­cal verse run deep in Is­raeli pol­i­tics: “If I for­get thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand for­get her cun­ning. If I do not re­mem­ber thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.”

That is most true on Jerusalem Day, which marks that mo­ment when, for the first time in 1,900 years, it was no longer a prayer or a dream: the site of Is­rael’s an­cient Tem­ple was once again in Jewish hands.

Pres­i­dent Reu­ven Rivlin – who of­ten tells how he is the eighth gen­er­a­tion in his fam­ily to live in Jerusalem – re­called the mir­a­cle of that day 49 years ago. As an in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer in the Jerusalem Brigade, he was one of the sol­diers who lib­er­ated the city.

“I re­mem­ber the emo­tion which washed over us all at the mo­ment we reached the West­ern Wall. I re­mem­ber how we were over­come with tears. There, even those who did not want to, cried,” said Rivlin, speak­ing at the of­fi­cial Jerusalem Day cer­e­mony on Am­mu­ni­tion Hill.

It would be a mis­take to judge ei­ther Ab­bas or Ne­tanyahu as men of peace or war based on the de­gree to which they hold fast to prin­ci­ples dear to their own hearts and those of the peo­ple whom they lead.

“Love for Jerusalem is what binds us to­gether,” Ne­tanyahu said of his coun­try’s cap­i­tal when he, too, spoke at Am­mu­ni­tion Hill and later at Mer­caz Harav yeshiva.

He re­called the bit­ter way it was di­vided from 1948 to 1967, when half of the city was un­der Jor­da­nian rule. Barbed­wire walls ran through it, with snipers’ shots and a mine­field lit­ter­ing aban­doned ar­eas.

“I re­mem­ber the tremen­dous ex­cite­ment that gripped me” af­ter the vic­tory of the Six-Day War, “when we streamed to the Wall to touch the stones,” Ne­tanyahu said.

There is a com­plex­ity to emo­tion, and it is pos­si­ble to sanc­tify both re­li­gious his­tory and peace, even if the two do not sit to­gether so eas­ily.

A two-state so­lu­tion would un­doubt­edly be closer had Ne­tanyahu stood on Jerusalem Day and spoke of the city as the eter­nal cap­i­tal of two peo­ple.

But in the com­plex uni­verse of Mid­dle East pol­i­tics, where words of­ten fall like large rain­drops that im­me­di­ately dry out in the hot sun, it is also pos­si­ble to speak of a united Jerusalem and si­mul­ta­ne­ously en­gage in talks of a “bold step” not yet de­fined, but only imag­ined.

(Kobi Gideon/GPO)

PRIME MIN­IS­TER Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu. ‘I re­mem­ber the tremen­dous ex­cite­ment that gripped me, when we streamed to the Wall to touch the stones.’

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