Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told AIPAC activists that “Jerusalem is not a settlement,” and also depicted the Palestinian Authority as not taking steps for peace.
During the comments on Jerusalem, the 8,000 American Israel Public Affairs Committee activists packed into the Washington Convention Center burst into lengthy cheers Monday evening, underscoring how the U.S.-Israel tensions over Israeli building in the eastern part of the city have yet to subside.
In her own address Monday morning to the annual policy conference, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the U.S. secretary of state, described building in eastern Jerusalem as frustrating an “atmosphere of trust.”
Netanyahu, who had met Clinton earlier Monday, told the AIPAC crowd that building in Jerusalem was a natural Jewish right, but stopped short of pledging to keep launching new building projects.
“The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 year ago and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today,” he said. “Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is our capital.”
Netanyahu also depicted the Palestinian Authority as not taking steps for peace. “What has the Palestinian Authority done for peace?” Netanyahu said. “They have placed preconditions on peace talks, waged a relentless international campaign to undermine Israel’s legitimacy, and promoted the notorious Goldstone Report that falsely accuses Israel of war crimes.”
Netanyahu blamed the Palestinian Authority for continued incitement. “A few days ago, in a public square near Ramallah, the Palestinians named this square after a terrorist who murdered 38 Israeli civilians, including 13 children, including the murder of an American photographer, Gail Rubin, and the Palestinian Authority did nothing.”
The Palestinian Authority has refused to rejoin talks with Israel until it imposes an absolute settlement freeze; the Netanyahu government has imposed a partial freeze and has improved movement in the West Bank.
“President Abbas, come and negotiate peace,” Netanyahu said. Peace, he said, was not sustainable when “Israel makes all the concessions and the Palestinian Authority makes none.”
In her speech, Clinton blamed the incident involving the square on the Palestinian Authority’s Hamas rivals.
Clinton’s address was hardly radical but certainly insisted that business as usual was now unacceptable in the Middle East. Hold back the money, Hillary, and then explain to the Jewish state that its behaviour is against peace. They’ll come begging soon enough when they can’t buy the latest weapon to kill Palestinians.
But perhaps the weirdest event of the day in Washington was this:
Rival Israel activists locked horns at Monday’s AIPAC conference in Washington as leading pro-Israel commentator Alan Dershowitz launched a blistering attack on pro-peace group J Street.
J Street representative Hadar Susskind was in the middle of an interview with Haaretz when Dershowitz let fly with a verbal onslaught against the group, which has openly criticized the Israeli government over its West Bank settlement policy.
Dershowitz accused J Street of dividing the Jewish community.
“I reject J Street because it spends more time criticizing Israel than supporting it,” he said. “They shouldn’t call themselves pro-Israel.
The combative Harvard law professor said that he too opposed settlements. “But I spend 80 per cent of my time supporting Israel,” he said.
He added: “It’s a shame that J Street has set itself up as an independent lobby.”
The sort of supporters J Street was attracting to its conferences showed that the group was damaging to Israel, Dershowitz said.
“If you invite [former U.S. Secretary of State] Zbigniew Brzezinski you are not pro-Israel,” Dershowitz told Susskind. “You should ask yourself why Norman Finkelstein loves you,” he said, referring to the noted leftwing American political commentator.
Responding to the attack, Susskind told Haaretz:
“No single community speaks with one voice. There are differences – but you won’t force other Jewish organizations to shut down just because of differences of opinion.”
Susskind told Haaretz that some fellow conference delegates had raised eyebrows, asking him what is was doing there.
“I’ve met people here that took part in our conference too. They are all Israel supporters and it doesn’t matter if they are at AIPAC or J Street,” he said.
He added: “We have disagreements with AIPAC that I don’t want to minimize. But we are all on the same side.”
And Dershowitz is still seen as a rational voice in the Jewish community? He supports AIPAC, who backs an ever-expanding occupation. Nice friends there.
Jerusalem’s mayor also wants more and more colonies in Jerusalem.
Away from the elaborate theatre in the US, Israel becomes more racist by the day:
The Knesset yesterday put Israeli democracy to shame when it passed the “Nakba Law” at first reading with a majority of 15 against eight.
If the law is passed at second and third readings it will be able to deprive bodies of state support and fine them if they mark Independence Day as a day of mourning, or if they hold memorial events for the Palestinians’ “catastrophe” in 1948.
The proposal adopted at the end of the Knesset’s winter session was “moderate” compared to the original one initiated by MK Alex Miller of Yisrael Beiteinu. It stipulates fining public institutions that hold activity “denying Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state,” and activity supporting armed struggle or terror against the state, inciting to racism or degrading the state’s flag or symbol.
The establishment of an “infiltrators’ city” next to the border with Egypt that would be built by illegal residents from Africa, which would be the only place they could live; hiring these refugees and immigrants to do state sponsored labor such as building the new border fence and paving roads for the benefit of the residents of southern Israel — these are just some of the proposals raised by MK Yaakov (Katzele) Katz of the National Union and chairman for the Knesset committee to examine the problems of the foreign workers, to battle the phenomenon of the infiltration of tens of thousands of refugees and African work immigrants into Israel.
And back in the heart of the American Jewish community, the New Yorker’s editor David Remnick doesn’t want to shock his readers too much – after all, American Jews have largely shut their eyes to what is truly happening in the West Bank and Gaza – but at least he manages this:
Without the creation of a viable contiguous Palestinian state, comprised of a land area equivalent to all of the West Bank and Gaza (allowing for land swaps), and with East Jerusalem as its capital, it is impossible to imagine a Jewish and democratic future for Israel. There is nothing the Israeli leadership could do to make the current fantasy of an indifferent American leadership become a reality faster than to get lost in the stubborn fantasy of sustaining the status quo.