What I dubbed the Obama administration's "rapid and harsh turn against Israel" has had three quick, predictable, and counter-productive results. These point to further difficulties ahead.
First result: Barack Obama's decision to get tough with Israel translates into escalating Palestinian demands on Israel. In early July, Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas and Saeb Erekat, his top negotiator, insisted on five unilateral concessions by Israel:
- An independent Palestinian state;
- Israel shrunk to its pre-June 1967 borders, minus a Palestinian land-bridge between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip;
- A Palestinian "right of return" to Israel;
- Resolution of all permanent status issues on the basis of the 2002 Abdullah plan; and
- A complete stop to building by Jews in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Palestinians and Americans are the intended audience for this preemptory list; such exorbitant demands, the record shows, only reduces Israeli willingness to make concessions...
Third result: The U.S. demand has prompted an Israeli resolve not to bend but to reiterate its traditional positions. Oren rejected State's demand. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who confessed to being "surprised" by the U.S. demand, assured colleagues "I won't cave in on this matter."
Publicly, Netanyahu closed the door on concessions. Insisting that Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem "cannot be challenged," he noted that "residents of Jerusalem may purchase apartments in all parts of the city" and pointedly recalled that "in recent years hundreds of apartments in Jewish neighborhoods and in the western part of the city have been purchased by – or rented to – Arab residents and we did not interfere.
"This says that there is no ban on Arabs buying apartments in the western part of the city and there is no ban on Jews buying or building apartments in the eastern part of the city. This is the policy of an open city, an undivided city that has no separation according to religion or national affiliation."
Then, his blistering finale: "We cannot accept the idea that Jews will not have the right to live and purchase in all parts of Jerusalem. I can only describe to myself what would happen if someone would propose that Jews could not live in certain neighborhoods in New York, London, Paris or Rome. There would certainly be a major international outcry. Accordingly, we cannot agree to such a decree in Jerusalem."