Irving Moscowitz and the Jerusalem conundrum
01/10/2011 - 16:48
James Besser

 Why am I not surprised?

On a day when State Department officials are expressing concern about the demolition of the Shepherd Hotel in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem, Politico's Laura Rozen reports that the developer of the project, the always-controversial Irving Moscowitz is a “top campaign contributor to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.).”

And Ros-Lehtinen is not just any “R-Fla.”; she's the new head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

On Sunday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “This disturbing development undermines peace efforts to achieve the two-state solution. In particular, this move contradicts the logic of a reasonable and necessary agreement between the parties on the status of Jerusalem.”

Well, isn't that the whole point?

I get it that religious Jews have a deep connection to Jerusalem. I get it that no Israeli government should or will allow the city to be divided in any way that compromises the integrity of Jewish holy sites. I get it that the Palestinian Authority isn't a very reliable partner for peace and that Hamas is worse. I get it that dividing Jerusalem with walls and fences is a bad idea. I get it that the Palestinian effort to deny the Jewish historic and religious connection to the city is offensive and destructive to any peace process.

But the whole idea of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations endorsed by a succession of Israeli governments includes the necessity of finding a compromise solution on Jerusalem. That's why Jerusalem is one of the “final status” issues.

You have to wonder about rich Americans who finance projects that could make that process much, much harder.

And who have the money to play the campaign finance game with influential members of Congress who don't have much use for the peace process – at least any peace process that requires Israeli compromise.

The Orthodox Union, which has led the fight to prevent any redivision of Jerusalem, doesn't agree.

Today the group issued a statement saying that the “unfortunate objections by the U.S. to the private and legal construction project at the site of the abandoned Shepherd Hotel lies in stark contrast to the non-discriminatory laws under which Israel and the City of Jerusalem are governed. No government of Israel has ever advocated for an inappropriate discriminatory policy that would prevent Jerusalem from realizing its full potential. Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government cannot be expected to stop a private construction project in violation of the law or restrict the areas in which Jews may live, particularly in Jerusalem.”

I honestly don't know what the answer to Jerusalem is. I do know you can't agree that the city's exact disposition will be the last step in negotiations, but insist before you get to that point that there's absolutely nothing to talk about.

And I know that whatever the answer is, it won't be easy.

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