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May 12, 1995 - Image 60

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-05-12

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Christianizing
Jerusalem's Status

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"Serving the Community for 39 years"

JAMES D. BESSER SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS

E

very now and then, we are
reminded that some Amer-
ican groups focused on the
Mideast debate are more
interested in entrenched biases
and parochial interests than in
an equitable, secure peace.
That seemed clear last week
when a group of Christian clergy
tacitly laid blame for the stale-
mated Mideast talks at the
doorstep of the Rabin govern-
ment — a government which, for
all its faults, has gone farther in
taking risks than most fervent
doves ever dared hope.
The statement by eight promi-
nent Christian leaders, includ-
ing the president of the National
council of Catholic Bishops and
the presiding bishop and primate
of the Episcopal Church made
demands that could complicate
the negotiations these leaders
claim to support, perhaps even
bringing them crashing down in
ruins.
For example, they called on
President Bill Clinton to demand
that negotiations over Jerusalem
begin immediately — despite the
strong likelihood that doing so
would unravel the delicate fabric
of peace woven so far.
This bit of Mideast mischief
came in a letter to President Clin-
ton that criticized the Rabin gov-
ernment's policy of expanding
Jewish neighborhoods in
Jerusalem. It demanded strong
American pressure to reverse
that policy, which the signers in-
sisted was intended to preclude
any compromise on Jerusalem's
future.
Many pro-peace activists in
Washington agree that the ex-
pansion of Jewish neighborhoods
is troubling, both from a moral
and practical point of view. The
debate over the policy is intense
in Israel, as well.
But the Christian statement
goes much farther, implying that
these controversial policies are a
primary cause of the recent prob-
lems in the peace talks. In fact,
one could guess, judging by the
lack of mentioning other factors,
the only cause.
The Christian leaders did not
bring up the Palestinian bomb-
ings that have killed a number of
Israelis in the past year and
deeply eroded confidence in the
Rabin government's peace poli-
cies.
They said nothing about Syri-
an President Hafez Assad's re-
fusal to negotiate without
prohibitive preconditions. They
were mute on the issue of Hezbol-
lab rocket attacks against Israeli

targets, and on Hamas, whose "ji-
had," if it succeeds, would hard-
ly be in the best interests of
Palestinian Christians.
Avoiding these glaring reali-
ties makes it possible, in the eyes
of these clergymen, to say that
only Israel can be at fault when
negotiations are stalemated.
One problem in the Middle
East has always been such a ten-
dency to see the region in "all or
nothing" terms.
Hardline Israelis and their
American supporters believe Is-
rael can do no wrong, that every
impediment to peace is the result
of an innate Arab proclivity to vi-
olence. On the other hand, Israel
bashers resolutely deny that
Arab extremists play any role in
Israeli skepticism toward relin-
quishing land for the untested
promises of peace.
The Christian statement on
Jerusalem is in the best tradition
of that latter group. Last week's
letter seeks to demonize, not to
provide constructive answers to
a complex situation. And the cho-
sen demon is Israel.

In effect, the
Christian leaders are
colluding with
Hamas and other
extremist groups.

In effect, the Christian leaders
are colluding with Hamas and
other extremist groups, which
want Jerusalem negotiations now
to bring this process to a fiery,
emotional end.
Such dialogue was put off un-
til the final status talks for a good
reason. Only then, Israeli lead-
ers hope, will there be a sturdy
base of agreements between Is-
rael and the Palestinians, sup-
ported by a growing nexus of
"normal" relations between the
two peoples. That's needed to off-
set the political upheaval that the
mere beginning of Jerusalem
talks will touch off in Israel.
Conspiracy theorists in the (
Middle East insist that deferring
the Jerusalem negotiations is re-
ally intended to give Israel time
to change the demographics of
the city. When the issue of the
capital is finally brought up, they
say, its status as Israel's undi-
vided capital will be impossible
to challenge.
That theory is not without (
merit — but it does not alter the
fact that negotiating over

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