Sabotaging the US-Israel relationship
By Leo Rennert
Two weeks ago, President Obama and his foreign-policy team went bananas over Israeli plans, still awaiting final approval, to build more housing units in a nearly two-decade-old Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem. It didn’t matter that Prime Minister Netanyahu wasn’t even aware of what turned out to be action by a low-level bureaucracy in the Interior Ministry that merely advanced the project to the next planning-review level. Netanyahu immediately was charged with a provocative move, an insult to the U.S. — and worse.
Now comes another crisis-in-the-making, this time manufactured and exquisitely timed by Peace Now, an Israeli group heavily financed by European governments to advance the Palestinian agenda against Israel.
As Netanyahu made his way to the White House for a summit with Obama, Peace Now leaked a fabricated report that the Israeli government had just given final approval to a project for 20 Jewish housing units in the Shepherd Hotel area of East Jerusalem — the former residence of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hitler’s No. 1 Arab ally who instigated lethal pogroms against Jews in the 1930s.
Peace Now timed the leak to cause maximum PR damage to Israel. As the U.S.-Israel summit got under way in Washington, it planted its report about more housing for Jews in East Jerusalem to Yedioth Ahronot, the biggest-circulation daily in Israel, whose coverage is distinctly unfriendly to the government.
From Yedioth Ahronnot’s website, the story immediately bounced to the wires and triggered headlines across the world that Israel again had yanked Obama’s chain in thwarting progress toward a two-state solution.
The White House predictably demanded a “clarification” from Israel, while again huffing and puffing that Israeli building in Jerusalem is “destructive” to the peace process.
Except, the story was concocted as a tissue of gross distortions and falsehoods.
The Israeli government didn’t give final approval to the 20 housing units as an accompaniment to the Obama-Netanyahu summit. The project received final approval from the Jerusalem municipality — after years of legal and planning reviews — in July, 2009. And it was so widely reported at the time.
From that moment on, all that was needed was payment to the Jerusalem Municipality of a requisite construction fee for an automatic go-ahead for building the new units. That payment of the fee took place on March 15 — eight days before the U.S.-Israel summit.
Except that Peace Now injected a couple of falsehoods in its leak to make it appear that this final, automatic pre-construction step occurred on March 23 and converted the payment of the fee into an official green light for the project — something that occurred eight months ago.
Mainstream media, however, had another anti-Israel feast with the false Peace Now report and the U.S. administration took another swing at Netanyahu.
There’s a particular irony in this entire affair for anyone with a sense of history. As Lanny Ben-David, a former Israeli diplomat noted, the new units may eventually be occupied by descendants of Jews who escaped the Grand Mufti’s pogroms that were orchestrated from the site of their new homes or by descendants of Jews who survived the Holocaust. “Maybe, just maybe,” he observed, “there are consequences to aggression.”
While mainstream media zero in piecemeal on Jewish housing projects in Israel’s capital, they mislead viewers and readers by failing to provide the full historical context and demographic projections for Israel’s capital.
Here’s what they are determined NOT to report:
1. Since Israel captured East Jerusalem in 1967, the Arab population of Israel’s undivided capital has grown appreciably faster than the Jewish population — a result of an outflow of Jews to other parts of the country, coupled with a sizeable inflow of Arabs from the Palestinian territories. By mid-century, the number of Arab residents of the city is expected to reach parity with the number of Jewish inhabitants. That hardly accords with the misleading media-generated impression that there’s a campaign to “Judaize” Jerusalem.
2. Jerusalem Mayor Barkat’s long-range plans for more housing in the next 20 years envisages construction of 50,000 housing units — with Jerusalem’s total population expected to rise from 800,000 to 1 million by 2030. Barkat has set aside one third of these new units — about 17,000 — for Arabs, in conformity with the current two-thirds Jewish ratio to one-third Arab. A measly 20 housing units for Jews grabs headlines, but 17,000 new homes for Jerusalem Arabs remains carefully censored by mainstream media.