The Battle for Jerusalem
“This is a battle over Jerusalem,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a nationally televised address to the people of Israel this week. He’s right. But because of the Obama Administration’s pressure, Israel is fighting with one hand tied behind its back.
The war began last summer. Mobs of Palestinian Arabs in some of Jerusalem’s eastern neighborhoods started launching almost daily attacks on Israelis – sometimes motorists, sometimes police officers. There was no “provocation.” They were not responding to a particular Israeli policy. They were just trying to kill Jews.
Occasionally the attackers hit their target. On September 1, for example, rocks crashed through the windows of a Jerusalem bus, injuring a three year-old Israeli girl. On October 2, the day before Yom Kippur eve, an Israeli family returning from the Western Wall accidentally drove into the Jerusalem Arab neighborhood of A-Tur. The rock-throwers jumped upon their prey. Two teenage girls in the car were wounded, which is a gentle way of saying that they narrowly missed being stoned to death.
But for Arabs trying to conquer Jerusalem, injuring little Israeli girls once in a while is not enough. From October 17 through October 19, official Palestinian Authority TV repeatedly broadcast a speech by PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas claiming that Jews were secretly plotting to “defile” the Al Aqsa Mosque, and urging Arabs to “prevent them in any way.”
The Palestinians got the message. On October 22, Abd al-Rahman Al-Shaloudi drove his car into a Jerusalem railway station, murdering two people – one was three month-old Chaya Zissel Braun, an American citizen – and injuring eight others. Sultan Abu Al-Einen, a senior advisor to Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, publicly praised Al-Shaloudi as a “heroic martyr.” The official Facebook page of Fatah, which Abbas chairs, likewise called the killer “heroic.”
A week later came the attempted murder of an American-Israeli rabbi, Yehuda Glick, in Jerusalem. Abbas said of the assassin: “He rose to Heaven while defending our people’s rights.” Fatah sponsored city-wide celebrations and called on “the fighters and the masses” to stage a “day of rage” on the Temple Mount and throughout Jerusalem. Not surprisingly, the Israeli police prevented Muslims from going to the Mount that day. The police also discovered a stockpile of firebombs inside the Al Aqsa Mosque.
The PA immediately declared that the police who entered the mosque had “desecrated” it and that the closure of the Mount that day “proved” Israel wants to destroy the mosque, which then became the pretext for more Palestinian terrorism, from the next car ramming into a Jerusalem train station on November 5 (two dead, 13 wounded) to the massacre of five Jews (three of them Americans) in Har Nof on November 18. All the while, Abbas continued stoking the fires with speeches about Jews trying to “contaminate” the mosque.
Any reasonable person can see that the PA’s claims are absurd lies and that its incitement is playing a primary role in the violence. But the Obama Administration has a political agenda that seems to interfere with its willingness to face the facts.
The Administration wants to create a Palestinian state next door to Israel, with a large part of Jerusalem as its capital. The only way to do that is to try to maintain the fiction that the Palestinian leadership is “moderate.” Admitting that Abbas himself is the one inciting the violence would mean acknowledging that he doesn’t want peace – thereby wrecking the entire premise of the administration’s Mideast policy.
Thus President Obama’s shocking – actually, revolting – response to the Har Nof massacre: “Too many Israelis have died and too many Palestinians have died.”
The Israelis who have died were innocent victims of Palestinian terrorism. Many of the Palestinians who have died were terrorists. But for Mr. Obama’s lights, it’s all a great big blur, with no moral distinctions and all sides being equally guilty. That’s the only way for him to keep pushing forward with the fiction of Palestinian moderation, in the cause of Palestinian statehood.
The Obama Administration is wrong. The United States should be on the side of its peace-making ally, Israel, in its fight against the Palestinian terrorist assault on Jerusalem. Whether the victims are three Americans beheaded by ISIS or three Americans butchered in a Jerusalem synagogue, America and Israel are fighting the same enemy.
The battle for Jerusalem is being fought – but it’s not a fair fight. Palestinian terrorists use rocks, firebombs, cars, and axes. Palestinian leaders praise, protect, and finance them. Israel tries desperately to defend itself – but the Obama Administration, with its relentless criticism, pressure, and moral equivalency, is in effect tying one of Israel’s hands behind its back.
This is the moment for American Jewry to step forward. Not with gala dinners and business-as-usual speeches, but with focused, effective political action to send a message to the Administration, and to mobilize Congress and the American public in support of Israel and Jerusalem. This is the moment for American Jews to rise to the challenge. Now – before the battle is lost.
Moshe Phillips is president and Benyamin Korn is chairman of the Religious Zionists of America, Philadelphia.