Ken Blackwell

President Obama needs every vote he can get in the House of Representatives for health care this week. So it would not do to have some of his liberal friends on the Hill think there is a crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations right now. Asked by FOX News’ Bret Baer directly if the recent diplomatic storm was a crisis, the President said no. He spoke of the decision by a mid-level Interior Ministry official in Jerusalem to allow housing units to be built in the Jewish section of the city. “Not helpful,” the President described the routine issuance of a building permit.

Who knew? Never before had even the volatile Palestinians violently protested against more apartments being built for Jews in the Jewish quarter.

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So what’s different? They’re testing us. The Palestinians want to see how far they can press the Americans. They want to drive a wedge between the Obama administration and the coalition of Likud and Right-wing parties that makes up the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Palestinians know that Obama wants to “reach out” to Muslims. If they can cause enough trouble in Israel, they know they can raise a hue and cry among their fellow Muslims, just in time for Obama’s big “Entrepreneurship Summit” with Muslims, slated for April 26-28 in Washington.

If they can incite Arab youths to a new “intifada,” the Palestinian Fatah faction, these political heirs of the terrorist Yassir Arafat, think they might topple Netanyahu’s coalition. If they do that, they hope to bring to power in Jerusalem a government willing to hand over still more territory to meet insatiable Palestinian demands.

Israel is but a fraction of the size of the Arab world. There are more than 50 million Arabs whose dictatorial governments have used the plight of the Palestinians since 1948 to help them de-stabilize the Jewish State. Those Arab rulers may fear one another. They surely fear their own people. But if they can succeed in Jew-baiting, they can distract their own peoples’ attention from the endemic corruption and backwardness that afflicts every Arab government, without exception. Discounting the profits from their nationalized oil deposits, the entire Arab world has a GNP less than Denmark’s.

To put the territorial dispute in perspective, the Arab world is a football field and Israel is a matchbook. Yet any attempt by Israelis to build homes in Judea and Samaria--regions that have been the heart of the Jewish homeland--is condemned by “world opinion.” Now, even when Jews build apartments for Jews in Jerusalem, they are denounced by the highest officials of the Obama administration. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Prime Minister Netanyahu and read him the riot act for forty-five minutes. Too bad she couldn’t read the riot act to rioters. It’s as if President Obama sees Israeli control of Jerusalem itself conditional.

President Obama does not feel there’s a crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations. But he does not live in Israel. It’s worth noting the impressions of Left-wing correspondent Yossi Klein Halevi, who wrote this on the blog of the liberal New Republic.

JERUSALEM—Suddenly, my city feels again like a war zone. Since the suicide bombings ended in 2005, life in Jerusalem has been for the most part relatively calm. The worst disruptions have been the traffic jams resulting from construction of a light rail, just like in a normal city. But now, again, there are clusters of helmeted border police near the gates of the Old City, black smoke from burning tires in the Arab village across from my porch, young men marching with green Islamist flags toward my neighborhood, ambulances parked at strategic places ready for this city's ultimate nightmare.

The return of menace to Jerusalem is not because a mid-level bureaucrat announced stage four of a seven-stage process in the eventual construction of 1,600 apartments in Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish neighborhood in northeast Jerusalem. Such announcements and building projects have become so routine over the years that Palestinians have scarcely responded, let alone violently.

What we saw was a building permit, not anything remotely resembling a “settlement.” The Obama administration has been pressuring Israel not to expand outside of Jerusalem.

Now, they’re tightening the tourniquet. They even want to restrict Jews’ ability to live and breathe inside Jerusalem. The Obama administration has apparently internalized the view that Jews are somehow an alien presence in their own country. Throughout recorded history, there has never been a time when there were no Jews in Jerusalem.

President Obama told Bret Baer that when Palestinians rioted against a synagogue in Jerusalem, “we condemned them in the same way.” In the same way. Talk about moral equivalence. With this administration, moral equivalence would be an improvement. They equate the issuance of a building permit to Jews by Jews for the peaceful construction of an apartment complex with murderous young Arab rioters going after houses of worship.

It is not right that Yossi Halevi should feel besieged in the capital of his own country. Surely, it is not right that Jerusalem should be once again a combat zone. This is especially true when, as Christians and Jews, we are called upon to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. You would think a Peace Prize laureate would know that.


Ken Blackwell

Ken Blackwell, a contributing editor at Townhall.com, is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council and the American Civil Rights Union and is on the board of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. He is the co-author of the bestseller The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency, on sale in bookstores everywhere..
 
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