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Jerusalem Day in the Age of Obama

Jerusalem Day is not just a date on the Jewish calendar anymore. It is a symbol not only of Israel’s desire to prevent the re-division of its capitol, but also of the breach between the Jewish state and its closest ally the United States.

Observed today in Israel according to the Hebrew calendar, Yom Yerushalayim is the 44th anniversary of the unification of the city of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War. The city had been divided in 1948 when the Arab invasion to prevent the birth of a Jewish state left one part under Israel’s control and another part in the hands of Jordan, which had seized the Old City and evicted Jews from the city’s ancient Jewish Quarter. The ceasefire that ended that war created lines that are now known as the “1967 borders,” which may be forever associated with President Obama’s demand that they serve as the starting point for any future Middle East peace negotiation.

The core of the “1967” problem is in Jerusalem. And it is there that Obama’s policy has moved the closest to Palestinian desires. Rather than taking it for granted that the Jewish neighborhoods that were created in parts of the city that were illegally occupied by Jordan from 1949 to 1967 would stay in Israel’s hands, Obama has treated them as if they were no different from the most remote West Bank settlement. It was over the construction of homes in these neighborhoods where a quarter of a million Jews live, and not in the West Bank, that Obama’s last attack on Israel’s government was launched last year.

Those who propose “sharing” the city with a Palestinian state claim that the situation that existed on June 4, 1967, will not be recreated. At that time, “East Jerusalem” was Judenrein—no Jews were permitted to enter. The Western Wall was off limits for Jewish worshippers, and the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives was desecrated. It is important to restate the fact that the only time in the city’s history when its holy places have been open to worship for all faiths and believers has been since 1967, when they came under Israeli control. It is difficult, if not impossible,  to understand how this small place can be shared without more walls and more conflict. And considering that the Palestinians refuse even to negotiate, it’s impossible to understand what Obama thinks he has accomplished with his stance except to reinforce their intransigence.

Thus Yom Yerushalayim 2011 has a special political significance. When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke before Congress last week, virtually everyone in the chamber applauded his pledge that Jerusalem would remain undivided. Everyone that is, except for Vice President Joe Biden. It is incumbent upon those who still support this administration to ask why the president and his team have chosen to tilt so far toward the Palestinians on this question. And today is as good as any to pose the question.


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