Diplomacy is the art of conducting international relations with tact and skill in an effort to form alliances and agreements, whereas hypocrisy is the practice of professing false virtues. By making a mountain out of a molehill incident, concerning Jewish home building in Jerusalem, the Obama administration is applying double standard hypocrisy rather than shrewd diplomacy.
In an effort to facilitate a peace process, there is logic behind the American demand to refrain from building new settlements that may jeopardize the final border to be drawn between Israel and its neighbors. But an honest broker would make that demand from both sides. If Jews are asked to stop building, Arabs should be asked to do the same. But no demands from the Palestinians have ever been made.
Within less than a year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accepted under certain preconditions the concept of a Palestinian state; he has removed dozens of West Bank checkpoints, helping facilitate a 7% economic growth in the territories and eased the daily life for thousands of Palestinians. Netanyahu has also put a 10-month halt on construction in the territories, which Secretary of State Clinton characterized as “unprecedented.”
Aside for asking for more, what have the Palestinians done?
It has yet to cross the mind of anyone in the White House that Palestinian building should be limited in the same or similar manner that Israeli construction is. In fact, for some very strange reason the American administration has not made a single demand from the Palestinians since Barack Obama took office over a year ago.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is set to change that paradigm.
In his visit to Washington, Netanyahu will need to clarify to Obama, Biden and Co. that Jews have a right to live in Judea, Samaria and in Jerusalem. Anyone fairly familiar with the Bible or with history knows that but in this case it is a good idea to reiterate the obvious. Since taking office, Obama has concentrated most of his Middle East peace efforts on limiting the construction of Jewish homes. These efforts have come instead of finding the right balance between the different interests.
The truth of the matter is that the real issue of urgency in the peace process is not settlements but rather the Palestinians’ unwillingness to accept Israel’s basic right to exist as the Jewish homeland. Israel has already made substantial concessions – many feel too many concessions – including unilateral withdrawals and displacement of Israeli citizens. The Palestinians have done nothing. The least that is to be demanded of the Palestinians before discussing the settlements, Jerusalem and other final-status issues is that they recognize Israel’s basic right to exist as the national home of the Jewish people.
A few years ago the people of Israel voted for a government that dismantled 10,000 Jewish homes in the hope for peace. The dismantlement led to disaster and instead of peace – Israeli civilians were targeted by Palestinian missiles. Last year the people of Israel voted for a government that wants to build homes rather than destroy them. The Obama administration should respect that.
Israel cannot decide for President Obama who his friends or foes are, but the basic truth of the matter still stands: Israel is the only nation in the Middle East that holds free elections, enables freedom of speech and cherishes similar values to those of the American people.
The American people know that and so should the American administration. It would be a waste of precious time and a true shame if the Middle East would have to wait for the next administration before it got an honest broker.