Today in Ramallah, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Israel’s demolition of Arab homes in Jerusalem was “unhelpful.” It was to be expected that she would toss the Palestinians a few bones during her visit and, one supposes, she could have said a lot worse.
Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that homes demolished in Jerusalem were built without permits, a practice that is illegal in most countries. Moreover, as anyone who has visited Jerusalem in recent years can testify, building in Arab neighborhoods of the city has grown exponentially. So the implied charge that no Arab homes are being allowed to be built is utterly false.
Of course, at the same time, the United States continues to carp about the building of Jewish homes in Jewish communities in the territories, especially those in Greater Jerusalem, which no Israeli government would ever surrender. So it’s more than a bit hypocritical for the U.S. to call on Israel to freeze the building of Jewish homes while opposing any effort to curb the growth of Arab housing.
A couple of other points about Clinton’s photo-op in Ramallah:
Earlier, Clinton stated that Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority constitute the only “legitimate” government of the Palestinians. As to that, the P.A. is certainly preferable to Hamas. But Abbas’s term in office has already expired and there’s no talk about holding another election. Of course not, since the weak Abbas might well lose to Hamas. As previously promised through leaks from the State Department, Clinton also has tried to pressure Israel to open the border crossings to Hamas-run Gaza without any concrete measures to enforce a cease-fire (rockets from Gaza continue to fall on southern Israel) or to release kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
The border crossings issue is directly related to the nearly $900 million stimulus plan that Obama is offering to the Palestinians. The question of where that money will go and who will administer it is vital. The U.S. wants to give the money to the P.A. but that body has no power in Gaza. Moreover, if it goes to the United Nations Relief Works Agency, the UN body dedicated to perpetuating the Palestinian refugee question, we know very well that Hamas will influence its distribution (since UNRWA is riddled with Hamas supporters) or will steal it. For all of our sympathy for ordinary Palestinians, you have to have an awful lot of faith to believe that some of the same people who have wasted billions in foreign aid in the territories over the last two decades, will get this sum to those who truly need it.
Moreover, if Clinton’s rhetoric seems familiar, it should. There’s very little difference between her statement and actions and those of Condoleezza Rice during the last two years of the Bush administration. Rice, too, attempted to forge an impossible peace deal with a Palestinian partner that was less interested in a Palestinian state than the Israelis. So much for change.