WASHINGTON - Appealing to Obama's heart: Amid tensions between the US administration and the Netanyahu government over construction in Jerusalem, Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel on Friday published a full page ad in the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal titled: "For Jerusalem".
In the ad, Wiesel said that Jerusalem must remain the spiritual capital of the world's Jews, and should serve as a symbol of faith and hope – not as a symbol of sorrow and bitterness. He wrote: "Jerusalem is the heart of our heart and the soul of our soul."
Following the American demand to halt construction in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu contacted Elie Wiesel, one of the most respected authors in the United States, to help him appeal to US President Barack Obama.
Wiesel was summoned for a meeting at the White House, but despite the high esteem President Obama holds for the Holocaust survivor, who he invited to join him on a tour of the Buchenwald death camp last June, it is unlikely Wiesel will be able to persuade Obama to change his policies.
In Friday's ad the author said, "For me, the Jew that I am, Jerusalem is above politics," Wiesel wrote. "It is mentioned more than 600 times in Scripture - and not a single time in the Quran... Its presence in Jewish history is overwhelming."
Wiesel added that the old city of Jerusalem would still be Arab if Jordan had not joined Egypt and Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War. He noted that while Jews would be willing to die for Jerusalem, they would not kill for it.
He said, "Today, for the first time in history, Jews, Christians and Muslims may all worship at their shrines…And contrary to certain media reports, Jews, Christians and Muslims are allowed to build their homes anywhere in the city."
He stressed that there must be a solution, but that it would not be brought about by pressure. He wondered, "Why tackle the most complex and sensitive problem prematurely? Why not first take steps which will allow the Israeli and Palestinian communities to find ways to live together in an atmosphere of security. Why not leave the most difficult, the most sensitive issue, for such a time?"
Peace Now: Prescription for perpetual strife
Debra DeLee, president and CEO of Americans for Peace Now, published a statement in response to Wiesel saying, "Your ad in the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal brought tears to my eyes, for more than one reason."
She said one cannot be unmoved by his style, but that that the ad also saddened her, "Because to follow your advice - to indefinitely postpone Israeli-Palestinian negotiations over Jerusalem - amounts to a future of blood and tears for Israelis and Palestinians alike. It is not a prescription for trust and hope, but for perpetual strife."
DeLee, who served in the past as chairwoman of the US democratic party, added, "Mr. Wiesel, I am attaching to this letter a map of east Jerusalem and of the West Bank, produced by our Israeli sister organization, Peace Now. Please look at it. Come to terms with the reality that to continue this status quo means death and destruction. I know that is not what you want."
In conclusion, she wrote: "Next time you visit Jerusalem, Mr. Wiesel, I invite you to tour East Jerusalem with one of Peace Now's experts. I guarantee that it would give you a new perspective on Jerusalem."