Two views of latest Jerusalem apartment controversy

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By Rabbi Dow Marmur
 

JERUSALEM–A Likud member of the Jerusalem city council said in a TV interview that he was very upset with the news concerning the 20 apartments for Jewish settlers to be built in the midst of an Arab neighborhood in the city. He didn’t think it was wrong – on the contrary – but he deemed it treacherous that someone leaked it to the media. He’s now demanding an inquiry about it. I had the impression that he knew the outcome and looked for an opportunity to blame the political left.

The Peace Now spokeswoman in the same interview was also outraged, but not because of the leak but because of the flagrant provocation by the bureaucracy, presumably acting on behalf of the political right. Had she asked for an investigation, it would have been of a different kind: why do they want to undermine Netanyahu?

Here, then, are two very different versions, one legalistic – the Likudnik had much to say about how Irving Moscowitz’s American dollars had legally bought the property from its previous owners, a triumph of democracy and free market economy – the other morally sensitive and politically mature wanting to advance peace for all, and horrified how these efforts are being seemingly deliberately thwarted by own side.

The Likudnik was very comfortable with the scandalous decision whereas his Peace Now opponent was very upset about the scandalous decision. I’ve a feeling that most Israelis would side with the latter, unless their unrealistic expectations that Obama would acquiesce to everything Israel does (a la George W. Bush) have become as widespread as to blunt their moral sensibilities.

If I had the authority I’d also demand an investigation about the leak, for I suspect that it came from – the same right-wing that now tries to put the blame on the left (an old political ploy with antecedents too hard to recall). It smells of yet another effort to prevent Netanyahu from making concessions by creating situations that will infuriate the American administration and cast Israel in the role of victim.

Israeli reactionaries love victimhood. It gives them opportunities to urge all Jews, in Israel and the Diaspora, to close ranks and fight the enemy, i.e., anybody who doesn’t agree with them. The 20 apartments during Netanyahu’s Washington visit may have been an attempt to reinforce the 1600 apartments during Biden’s Jerusalem visit.

The burning issue this weekend and the Pesach week that follows will be if the seven-man inner cabinet can face realities and make substantial concessions, or if it’ll seek to perpetuate the myth of the world’s hostility and Israel’s invincibility. There’re some of the seven e.g., Barak and Meridor – who may rise to the occasion, but there’re others – e.g., Yishai and Lieberman (of course) – whose past record suggests otherwise.

The latter will no doubt say again with the Prime Minister that the US President should concentrate on the real issue – the Iranian threat – and not tinker with Jerusalem real estate. We can only hope that others will persuade them that, for better or worse, the prevailing US opinion is that the peace process here is a precondition for an effective response to Iran, and perhaps also to Iraq and Afghanistan. It may not even be true, but if President Obama thinks it is, Israel has little choice but to comply.

The coming days will place us all before yet another way of having to cross the Red Sea. Let’s pray for a safe passage so that we can continue to celebrate our freedom.

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Rabbi Marmur is spiritual leader emeritus of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto.  He now divides his time between Canada and Israel.

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