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Yoram Ettinger Photo: Gabi Menashe
Yoram Ettinger Photo: Gabi Menashe
 
 

A Jerusalem response to Obama

PM must learn from past leaders, defy US Administration

Yoram Ettinger
Published: 07.22.09, 11:15 / Israel Opinion

Twenty five towns in the United States, from Massachusetts to Oregon, bear the name of Jerusalem – Salem. This is a reflection of the unique bonds that exist between the USA – since the 17th century Pilgrims and the Founding Fathers – and the Jewish capital, land, history and religion.

 

The US Congress – the most authentic representative of the American People – has passed a series of bills and resolutions reaffirming the role of Jerusalem as the indivisible capital of the Jewish State and the appropriate site for the US embassy in Israel. US constituents and their representatives on Capitol Hill are aware that 3,000 years before President Obama entered the White House, and 2,770 years before the US gained its independence, King David entered the City of Jerusalem – the Heart of the Jewish People. However, notwithstanding his speech at the 2009 AIPAC Conference, Obama wishes to repartition Jerusalem, to prohibit free Jewish construction and entice Arab construction there. Obama does not recognize pre-1967 Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish State.

 

In 1949, at the end of the War of Independence, the US Administration, Europe and the UN exerted brutal pressure on Prime Minister Ben Gurion to refrain from declaring Jerusalem as the capital, to accept the internationalization of the city, and to abstain from establishing facts on the ground. They also leaned on Israel to "end the occupation of the Negev" and absorb and compensate the 1948 Arab refugees.

 

Ben Gurion's response was immediate and appropriate. He declared Jerusalem the capital of the Jewish State, relocated government departments and agencies to Jerusalem, expanded construction all the way to the ceasefire lines, directed a massive number of Olim (immigrants) to Jerusalem and upgraded the transportation infrastructure to the city. Ben Gurion's determination and defiance clarified to the US that neither Jerusalem nor the Negev was subject to negotiation. It accorded Jerusalem the space required for security and development for the next generation.

 

In 1967, the US Administration and the international community threatened Prime Minister Eshkol that the reunification of Jerusalem, and any construction beyond the 1949 ceasefire line, would undermine severely Israel's global standing. Eshkol replied firmly by annexing the Old City, the eastern suburbs and substantial land reserves and built the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood (beyond the ceasefire lines.)

 

In 1970-1972, Prime Minister Golda Meir defied the (Secretary of State) Rogers Plan, which called for Israel's retreat to the pre-1967 lines and for the transfer of the Old City to the auspices of the three religions. She laid the groundwork for a series of satellite neighborhoods around Jerusalem (beyond the "Green Line"): Neve Ya'akov, Gilo, Ramot Alon and French Hill. These neighborhoods provided Jerusalem with the land required for development until today.

 

Dramatic expansion needed

In 2009, President Obama is exerting psychological pressure on Israel to repartition Jerusalem, which would rob the city of essential land reserves. This land constitutes the prerequisite for the dramatic enhancement of Jerusalem's transportation, residential and industrial infrastructures, which are critical for the transformation of Jerusalem from a city of net Jewish emigration to a city of net Jewish immigration.

 

An appropriate fast-track-response to Obama – which would be aimed at attracting entrepreneurs, job-creation, affordable housing, as well as providing Jerusalem with the developmental space for future generations should include:

 

• Upgrading "Begin Road" to a "Jerusalem Loop"

• Expanding freeways (to Jerusalem) 1 and 443

• Building freeway 45 to the coastal plain

• Fast railroad to Jerusalem

• Completion of light rail system in Jerusalem

• Construction of an international airport

• Traditional and high-tech industrial zones

• Residential construction zones

• Fast roads connecting new zones

 

Such dramatic enhancement of infrastructure requires an equally dramatic expansion of Jerusalem's city limit: eastward to the Dead Sea, Herodion and Mt. Ba'al Hazor, westward to Modi'in and Kirayt Sefer and southward to Beitar Ilit and Gush Etzion.

 

The battle over Jerusalem necessitates that the Jewish State join forces with the US public and its representatives in the House and Senate. This is the time to resurrect the 1999 initiative – which was co-sponsored by 84 Senators – to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem. This is the time to encourage Israel's friends on the Hill, and especially the Chairmen of the Congressional and Senatorial campaign committees, to revisit bills and resolutions, which highlighted Jerusalem's indivisibility as the capital of Israel.

 

Jerusalem's growth requires – as it did during Ben Gurion's, Eshkol's and Golda's terms – a defiance of the US Administration. On the other hand, succumbing to Obama's pressure would exacerbate Jewish emigration from Jerusalem, subjecting the Jewish capital to its worst security and demographic threats since 1967.

 

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