Uri and Yael, first cousins on my mother’s side, are a rather typical middle class couple, moderate Israelis who live in a suburb of Haifa. Longtime supporters of the Labor Party, their votes are now up for grabs. And hopeful constituents of Rabin and Peres during the 1990s peace process, they now voice disdain for the sincerity of the Palestinian Authority leadership’s peaceful intentions. This view seemed almost universal among Israelis we saw on last month’s Meretz USA Israel Symposium and in my own travels the week after, until my return about 12 hours before seder time.
On Jerusalem in particular, Yael surprised me with her opinion on the ongoing disagreement between Netanyahu’s coalition government and the Obama administration on the right and wisdom of continuing to build housing for Jews in Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. “We have no choice,” she said.
There is a choice, of course, and this choice that Israel has made is a poor one, because it gobbles up the very ground that is required for a territorial compromise in Jerusalem that would help make a two-state solution possible. While on a tour of East Jerusalem with our very knowledgeable (and patriotic) Israeli guide from Ir Amim, we looked down upon a shiny new neighborhood there. Our guide asked rhetorically if Israel or the Jerusalem municipality suddenly saw the light in providing sidewalks and other amenities to treat its East Jerusalem Arab residents equitably. The answer sadly is “no”; the new traffic circle, the new buildings, the playground and the sidewalks are there for the convenience of new Jewish residents in a development now called Nof Tsyon.
This links to a long NY Times blog post which discusses the issue of Jerusalem in detail.