Is Peace Now Leader Profiting From Opposition to Jerusalem Building?
During Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent White House meeting with President Obama the conspicuously impatient Israeli organization known as Peace Now seized the opportunity to make headlines. It leaked information to the press that a plan for building new homes in the Givat Hamatos neighborhood of Jerusalem had been approved.
The furious prime minister denounced the peace group for what he described as an attempt to sabotage his meeting. No less predictably, the president expressed his concern over the Peace Now announcement. His spokesman Josh Earnest asserted that “this development will only draw condemnation from the international community, [and] distance Israel from even its closest allies” – and we know who they once were.
Peace Now denied its obvious intention to sabotage Netanyahu’s meeting with Obama. It proclaimed its own honorable purpose, linking the timing of its disclosure merely to the publication of the housing plan yet to be made public. In self-exculpation it explained that such disclosures occur “on a regular basis in order to safeguard the two state solution” that Peace Now relentlessly pursues. It was all Netanyahu’s fault: the prime minister “should not have allowed for the publication of the plan if he did not want trouble with President Obama.”
Peace Now’s rectitude, if it must be said, is beyond dispute. Describing its mission “to promote peace and democracy,” it was founded in 1978 to encourage negotiations between Israel and Egypt that culminated in the treaty signed by Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat. That mission accomplished, it turned its attention ever since to a negotiated two-state solution between Israel and the PLO, now superseded by the Palestinian Authority, that would produce “an end to the occupation, return to the 1967 borders and negotiations for peace.” Any resemblance between the Peace Now and Palestinian agendas is purely intentional.
It turns out, however, that there is a fly in the Peace Now ointment. The proposed Givat Hamatos housing development is adjacent to the southwestern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, an ancient Israelite site mentioned in the Book of Joshua. Established in 1973, it now has 40,000 (mostly Jewish) residents and is an integral part of Jerusalem. There is no plausible way for Gilo to be within Jerusalem’s borders while Givat Hamatos, as Peace Now asserts, would comprise an illegal “settlement.”
Turn about is always fair play in Israeli politics. Tzali Reshef, a co-founder of Peace Now and a one-term member of the Knesset from the Labor party a few years back, owns Ariedan Investments Ltd, which has invested in the construction in Gilo and French Hill, a neighborhood in northern Jerusalem also built after 1967. This information was disclosed by Dani Dayan, former leader of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria, following his recent television debate with Reshef. Danan cited the obvious: for Reshef to invest in Gilo, while claiming that next door Givat Hamatos would be an illegal “settlement,” is more than slightly hypocritical – if profitable.
Palestinians with whom Peace Now has long curried favor would expect nothing less. Any post-1967 Israeli community, even in Jerusalem, is considered an illegal “settlement.” But settlement in the Land of Israel, whether long ago in overnight tower and stockade outposts or kibbutzim, to say nothing of Jerusalem, has always defined Zionism. Givat Hamatos is only the most recent example of a practice that is more than a century old and the dream of Jews during two millennia.
Prime Minister Netanyahu responded appropriately to the Givat Hamatos kerfluffle: “The French build in Paris, the English build in London, the Israelis build in Jerusalem.” And State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki reacted predictably: continued Israeli building across the 1967 Green Line, she asserted, is “incompatible with their stated desire to live in a peaceful society.”
If Tzali Reshef was shrewd enough to invest in the Gilo and French Hill “settlements” (as Palestinians and members of the Obama administration refer to them) he might want to follow his own example and redirect his attention (and portfolio) to Givat Hamatos. The best guarantee for peace now is a strong and united Israel, with Jerusalem as its capital. With unprecedented hostility toward Netanyahu coming from the inner circles of the Obama administration (“chicken-shit” being the most recent term of invective), ever so eager to capitulate to Iran and lacerate Israel, the Jewish state is increasingly on its own.
But if Dani Dayan and Tzali Reshef can find common ground in the development of Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem anything seems possible. They need only disregard the increasingly inept American president and fawning acolytes in his government and the media.
Jerold S. Auerbach is a frequent contributor to The Algemeiner.