Reply to Peace Now on J’lem

Posted on April 19, 2010 In Blog

Americans for Peace Now’s Debra DeLee pens a reply to my (Nathan Diament’s) op ed in Politico defending the unity of Jerusalem and its place in Jewish history, faith and identity.

Not content to focus on the facts or arguments alone, Ms. DeLee insists on maligning me as an “obstructionist” who, apparently, does not belong in the ranks of those at Peace Now – who are the “us who care about Israel” – and “peddling” an agenda of “derailing the renewal of…peace talks.” I will confine my reply to the few facts and arguments contained in the Peace Now reply:

Yes, I know that previous Israeli Prime Ministers Rabin, Barak (not Sharon, as DeLee states) and Olmert were willing to negotiate over Jerusalem. I concede, as anyone must, that the Palestinian claims on Jerusalem require that it be a topic on the negotiation agenda. But it is also the case that none of these past Prime Ministers committed Israel to such a re-division, much less concluded a deal – especially as Arafat and Abbas rejected whatever concessions in Jerusalem were being offered. And so, especially in the wake of the Palestinians’ post-Oslo resort to Intifada and post-Olmert rejection of even entering into face-to-face negotiations, the current Israeli government has explicitly declared its commitment to a unified Jerusalem in which people of all faiths are secure and the city is at peace.

Of course, “Jerusalem’s holiness…derives from the Divine decision to house to Holy of Holies there.” I am pleased that in the course of advocating the recognition of “Palestinian national aspirations” in Jerusalem, DeLee does not take the Palestinian’s tack and deny the historic and religious connection of the Jews to Jerusalem. And, of course, a “political deal could [not] make Jerusalem less holy.” But a peace deal that cedes (or wrests) the Holy City from Israeli sovereignty will make Jerusalem less secure and drive a dagger into the heart of Jewish and Israeli identity. As Americans, we should not want the Obama Administration to press for Jerusalem’s division for that former reason, as Jews we should not support Jerusalem’s division for that latter reason.

On the security point, we have a track record to look at; a history from 1948-1967 of Arab rule in Jerusalem and the barring of Jews from our holy sites and destruction of them too. And, we have a more recent track record, of just the past few years, when synagogues in Gaza were sacked after that territory came under Palestinian control and Joseph’s Tomb in the West Bank and other sites under Arab control have also been defaced and degraded.

On the identity point, the Palestinians can, and do, claim an attachment to Jerusalem, but on the facts, their claim pales in comparison to the Jewish claim. I laid out the Jewish claims in my essay. As to the Palestinian claims:
On history – our connection to Jerusalem in 3000 years old, theirs is not; and you will not find Palestinian claims to Jerusalem prior to its recapture by Israel in 1967, it is not even mentioned in the PLO’s founding covenant of 1964.
On religion – in Islam, Jerusalem is their third holiest site, as opposed to our holiest; it is not mentioned in Koran once, it is in the Hebrew Bible hundreds of times; Muslims face Mecca, even when praying in Jerusalem, Jew face Jerusalem from wherever we pray.

Finally, in contrast to one who seeks to derail peace talks, I put forward the simple point that, in light of all this, that the “status quo [in Jerusalem] – de jure Israeli sovereignty with de facto Muslim control” over their holy sites “is more commendable than any speculative new ‘international regime’” for the holy city. The recognition of this position by the Obama Administration could actually advance peace, not derail it.

Like so many others, including Mssrs. Brzezinski and Solarz to whom my essay was directly responding to, the fine folks at Peace Now seem to believe that for peace to be achieved Israel must sacrifice everything. Peace is desirable. Peace is to be pursued. Peace is to be prayed for. But peace at any price – at the price of security, identity, faith and history? – is that a peace worth having?