Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dropped a bombshell today in a speech at the Plaza Hotel to about 500 people gathered by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations: Israel might accept a peace agreement in which parts of Jerusalem are handed over to a Palestinian state.
He said it backwards, but the message was unmistakable. Here are his words:
You all know that there are many Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem that will remain in Israel regardless of any agreement that is reached.
Translation: It’s possible that an agreement (that is, something on which the parties agree) could be reached in which some Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem will not remain in Israel. I couldn’t get any Israelis to comment afterward.
It didn’t come as part of the prepared speech, but as part of his answer to one of the two written questions from the audience read to him afterward by Malcolm Hoenlein. (Did they arrange it in advance so he could slip the bombshell into an afterthought? Dunno yet.)
Among the dignitaries present who was greeted from the podium by Presidents Conference chair Alan Solow before Bibi spoke was Jamal Benomar, a Moroccan United Nations civil servant who serves as chief of staff to the president of the U.N. General Assembly, Ambassador Ali Treki of Libya. I asked Israeli ambassador Gabriella Shalev if it was a big deal for him to show up to a thing like this. She said, “Yes, certainly” (ken, betach).
Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).