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Monday, December 28, 2009

The question that the White House should answer

The White House announced:
The United States opposes new Israeli construction in East Jerusalem. The status of Jerusalem is a permanent status issue that must be resolved by the parties through negotiations and supported by the international community. Neither party should engage in efforts or take actions that could unilaterally pre-empt, or appear to pre-empt, negotiations.
Earlier today:
Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias said Monday that 500 housing units have recently been authorized in Jerusalem's Silwan neighborhood. According to Atias, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat gave the go ahead for the building in order to address the lack of housing in the city, for Jews and Arabs alike.

Atias made these statements on the heels of Palestinian accusations that Israel is not allowing Arabs to build in the city outside of some isolated cases.

According to details gathered so far, out of the 500 housing units authorized in Silwan, only two of them are for Jewish residents living in the neighborhood. Minister Atias presented this figure in response to allegations that Israel is only allowing construction for Jewish housing after 692 housing units were authorized in Jerusalem outskirt neighborhoods Neve Yaakov, Har Homa, and Pisgat Ze'ev.
The White House statement seems to imply that it would be against the 500 Arab houses being built in Silwan as well. If it supports the construction of Arab houses, that means that the White House is only against Jews living in east Jerusalem. If it is against the construction of Arab houses in Silwan, it would be consistent, but it would mean that the President holds that Jerusalem must remain a stagnant city until there is some sort of "peace" agreement, which may never happen.

So does the President support the building of Arab houses in the eastern part of the city?

An enterprising reporter should ask the White House press secretary that very question tomorrow.

(By the way, the White House makes a major error by capitalizing the E in "East Jerusalem," implying that it is the name of part of the city. That very capitalization seems to prejudge the US position on the outcome of those negotiations.)