The Freedom of the City

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The freedom of the city is not negotiable. We cannot negotiate with those who say, “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable.”

U.S. President John F. Kennedy, addressing a concerned nation during the Berlin Crisis 48 summers ago, spoke those words in standing firm against Soviet designs on the city.

The speaker could just as sensibly be Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu today, addressing a concerned nation and standing firm against Palestinian designs on Jerusalem.

Just as America then recognized the need to oppose a takeover of vital real estate, so must Israel today. The need for Israel to clarify its sovereignty over and rights to Jerusalem appears ever more necessary as Palestinian rhetoric continues on its dishonest, insensible and dangerous path.
The freshest example is last week’s meeting in Bethlehem of the Fatah general council, which produced the statement that the Palestinians consider all of Jerusalem to be theirs.

According to the Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz, the council published a position paper that stated that the organization does not distinguish between Jerusalem’s western and eastern sectors. The position paper contained this line: “Fatah will continue to sacrifice victims until Jerusalem will be returned [to the Palestinians], clean of settlements and settlers.”

At first glance, Fatah’s position is startling. I cannot name a single, non-Muslim country that considers the western sector of Jerusalem — a sector that was internationally-recognized Israeli territory even before the Six-Day War — to be up for negotiation. Jerusalem’s inclusion on the 1993 Oslo agreement’s agenda for final-status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians always had referred, presumably, to the eastern sector of the city because that is where many Palestinians live. Even then, Israel has very strong historical, moral and religious claims to that sector — particularly to the Old City, which contains Judaism’s holiest site (the Western Wall) and where Jews lived for 3,000 years until the Jordanians in 1948 killed Jewish residents, evicted survivors and razed synagogues.

On second glance, though, last week’s Palestinian statement is par for the course — the course being denying Jewish claims to any place in Israel and falsifying history to suit the Palestinian agenda.
If, with Oslo and subsequent agreements, the Palestinians truly had opted to settle their grievances with Israel, why do the Fatah movement and the Palestinian Authority (to say nothing of even more radical organizations, such as Hamas) continue to utilize a logo that shows the entire territory of Israel as an undivided entity of Arab Palestine?

And what about last week’s Fatah pledge to “sacrifice victims” to seize Jerusalem? Supposedly, the Palestinians committed 16 years ago to forsake the armed struggle and terrorism, and instead settle all disagreements peaceably. So much for the worth of a piece of paper and a handshake. Do Jews pledge to “sacrifice victims” for territory or for any other purpose? No, because people who value life do everything to preserve life.

Governments of the world should do the right thing, and recognize the truth: that Jerusalem never has been more politically open and religiously free than under Israeli sovereignty the past 42 years. Because of the openness and freedom that Israel affords, Muslims bow down in the mosques on the Temple Mount, Christians pray at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and Jews touch their hands to the kotel (Western Wall) whenever they so desire. Political correctness, fear of Muslim violence and belief in Palestinian entitlement are among the factors accounting for governments’ unwillingness to recognize the Jewish state’s utmost respect for religious freedom in Jerusalem and throughout Israel.

Governments also should recognize the fabrications inherent in the Palestinian narrative, of which last week’s statements were but the most recent. During the Camp David talks in 2000 — when Ehud Barak presented the Palestinians with a final-status deal that no sensible leader would reject, but that Yasser Arafat rejected — President Clinton was furious with Arafat. Why? Because he was disgusted by Arafat’s false claim that Jews never had a presence in Jerusalem and that the holy Jewish temples there never existed. Palestinians’ destruction of the Temple Mount’s archaeological finds that offer additional proof of Jewish history in Jerusalem similarly must be condemned.

In the Bible, G-d speaks of punishing the third and fourth generations for the sins of their fathers.
I never quite understood that threat. Now, I do. The maximalist offers of prior Israeli leaders only feed the maximalist ambitions of the Palestinians. Those approaches condemn both people to a deadlock in negotiations for many years to come.

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About the Author

Sarah Stern
Sarah Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).


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