Unfriendly Fire

Editorial

Published March 10, 2010, issue of March 19, 2010.
  • Print
  • Share Share

There were the expected handshakes and bear hugs, the slaps on the back and supportive words amiably expressed before the media. Just what ought to happen when Israel welcomes the vice president of the United States, the second in command of its greatest ally and the highest-ranking official of a still-new administration to visit Jerusalem.

Then, dafka, the proverbial stab in the back.

Hours after Vice President Joe Biden declared that there is “no space” between Israel and the U.S., the Israeli government announces the approval of 1,600 new housing units in contested East Jerusalem, expanding the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood for ultra-Orthodox Jews on land that Palestinians also claim. The announcement from the Interior Ministry, run by the head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, claimed that the expansion has been in the works for years (true) and that the timing was just a coincidence (hard to believe).

The day after, press reports said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was surprised and embarrassed by the timing of the announcement. If true, that suggests he is incapable of managing his sprawling administration, so packed with patronage that it is the largest in Israel’s history — hardly an encouraging thought.

In any case, this is no way to treat a guest. The timing and the substance of the announcement left Biden in a terrible spot, forced to condemn his host’s behavior even as he was trying to launch a new round of indirect negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis.

As Americans, we feel insulted. Contrary to the spin generated in some quarters, the Obama administration has gone out of its way to support Israel and the Netanyahu government. As the Forward has reported, cooperation between the two nations is flourishing — the Obama administration has worked hard to bolster Israel’s qualitative military edge, which had eroded during the final year of the presidency of George W. Bush. America continues to do the heavy lifting required to fend off unfair criticism of Israel in unfriendly venues. And American Jews continue to pour money, resources and energy into ensuring Israel’s future.

Some Jews believe that all of Jerusalem belongs under Israeli control, but that is a political position, not an indisputable fact. Another people also lays claim to this holy city. This is why negotiations are so desperately needed — and why expanding Ramat Shlomo by fiat may serve the narrow purposes of a political agenda, but it obstructs the broader goal of a negotiated settlement. As Israeli writer (and Forward contributing editor) Uri Dromi wrote the day after this debacle: “By expanding settlements, instead of separating from the Palestinians while we still can, we Israelis are dooming ourselves to lose the Jewish and democratic state that has been won with so much sacrifice.”

But our reaction to this announcement is more personal. The American vice president was placed in a humiliating position. Note to Israel: That’s not how you treat your best friend.






Find us on Facebook!
  • Israelis are taking up the #IceBucketChallenge — with hummus.
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.