These neighborhoods (including Gilo, Ramot Alon, French Hill, and Neve Yaakov) were built after the Six-Day War within the jurisdiction of Israel’s capital; now, they are finally being granted American recognition of their traditional Palestinian name: Settlements.
A direct link exists between Obama’s speech in Cairo and the American decision that Gilo and French Hill are just the same as the settlements of Ofra and Elon Moreh. We can therefore conclude that the US Administration has started to speak Arabic. Salam Aleikum, America!
The facts regarding Jerusalem’s unification are clear. About four decades ago, Israeli governments headed by Levi Eshkol and Golda Meir took two significant decisions; they did so boldly and openly. One decision was “territorial,” while the second one was “demographic.”
On June 27, 1967 Eshkol decided to annex an area of roughly 70,000 dunams, only 10% of which was part of the Old City. The rest of the area included the land of 28 villages in the West Bank from the Bethlehem and Ramallah area.
In three different stages of confiscation and construction, by 1970 the State of Israel built the following neighborhoods: Shapira Hill (known as French Hill,) Ramot Eshkol, Maalot Dafna, Neve Yaakov, Ramat Alon, Talpiot East, Gilo, and later on Ramat Shlomo – these neighborhoods were built on 23,500 dunams of the annexed territory.
Meanwhile, in 1973 Golda’s government took a decision that would doubtfully even be considered by anyone today, regarding “maintenance of Jewish demographic superiority in the Jerusalem area.” This followed a report by the Gafni Committee that recommended maintaining a ratio of 73.5% Jews compared to 25.5% Arabs in the capital.
To that end, the government built the new neighborhoods in Jerusalem that were meant to counterbalance the 70,000 Arab Palestinians residing in the region, while also curbing the geographical contiguity of their communities with the capital’s metro area.
The peace process, which focused on the “classic” settlements in Judea and Samaria, diverted the Israeli public’s attention (and only the Israeli public’s attention) from the issue of the Jerusalem neighborhoods. The Palestinians continued to refer to them as settlements throughout this time.
Obama’s ‘diplomatic missiles’
For years, Israel accepted the international disregard for the Israeli capital’s status, as long as this had no significant expression in its ties with the West. The issue of Jerusalem’s extended jurisdiction came up for debate several times in UN institutions, which never accepted the annexation and consistently determined that the expansion is illegal.
Indeed, until 1967 western Jerusalem was home to 24 foreign embassies. The city’s unification started to erode the international legitimacy which Israel enjoyed mostly in the 1950s and 1960s as result of global diplomatic efforts. With the passage of time, as result of the failure to recognize the united Jerusalem and the pressure exerted by Arab states, more and more countries relocated their embassies to Tel Aviv.
Today, there is not even one foreign embassy in Western Jerusalem. They function quite well from Tel Aviv too, by the way.
UN member states make sure to raise the issue once in a while in various forums and remind the world that Israel is an occupier in east Jerusalem and has no rights there. One anomaly is the US Congress, where Obama and Mitchell hail from; in 1995, it approved a resolution affirming Jerusalem’s unification and demanding that America’s embassy be moved to Jerusalem.
A few days ago, Mitchell sent a query to the Knesset speaker, wondering whether the Knesset intends to approve a memorial ceremony for Meir Kahane. Rivlin certainly had no intention of approving the event, yet the query sent by the American senator of Lebanese descent left a bitter taste among many of us, who were feeling as though we are the subjects of a banana republic.
Hence, why should we be surprised now to see Mitchell demanding that Netanyahu refrain from building in Gilo?
It appears that the “mini-crisis” with the US will be accelerated in the face of Mahmoud Abbas’ threats to dismantle the Palestinian Authority and create turmoil in the West Bank. We must admit that the Arabs managed to drive a wedge between us and our traditional ally. Salamat, America!