Friday, March 26, 2010

Open Letter to the President

Dear Mr. President,

I was already very troubled by your administration's handling of the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, particularly with respect to Israel's recent announcement of building plans for Jerusalem during Vice President Biden's visit.

* The new apartments, while technically over the Green Line, are to be built in Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem.

* Ramat Shlomo already has a population of 18,000, larger than many towns in the US.

* The location, called "East Jerusalem" by the press, is actually west of the Old City and is actually immediately north of downtown Jerusalem.

* No Arabs live there and no Arabs live between Ramat Shlomo and Jewish Jerusalem.

* Ramat Shlomo has been included in US peace proposals as being inside Israel under a final peace settlement.

* Construction of apartments, synagogues, commercial stores and community centers in Ramat Shlomo has been going on for 14 years, without US condemnation.

I admit that the timing of Israel's building announcement was inconvenient.

However, by choosing to disbelieve Prime Minister Netanyahu, by rejecting his apology, and by instead turning this issue into a crisis with Israel, your administration has made it just about impossible for the Palestinians to return to talks.

Now you have poured salt on the wound by being rude to Prime Minister Netanyahu.

There has never been any doubt in any final solution negotiations that Jerusalem would continue to be Israel's capital.

That aside, why should Israel not be allowed to build housing wherever it wants to so long as the land is available or the landowners are appropriately compensated? Why is it ok for the Palestinian Authority to continue to enforce a decades-old Jordanian law that made it a capital crime to sell land to Jews.?

Why is your administration making a big deal about Israel building houses, but not criticizing the PA for that or for educating their children to glorify suicide murderers or to use textbooks that do not show Israel's existence on any maps?

How has the US' angry response lambasting Israel moved US policy forward?

I understand that Secretary of State Clinton has communicated a list of unreasonable requirements which your administration is imposing on Israel in order to restore confidence in bilateral talks and to open the way for resuming negotiations.

I do not believe that Israel can or should hold out for "Greater Israel" or can achieve peace without making concessions. However, in this instance Israel should not be pressured or expected to reverse its totally reasonable building plans, and certainly should not be pressured or expected to release Palestinian prisoners.

Israel has consistently been ready to negotiate all of the issues required to make peace and provide for the formation of a Palestinian State. In contrast, the Palestinians have consistently put barriers in the way and imposed preconditions before negotiating. I am disappointed that you have not shown more leadership by challenging them on that.

I believe that the responsibility for reducing the recent tensions rests with you and your administration. You owe Israel and Mr. Netanyahu an apology! I am now not sure why I voted for you (despite your recent success with healthcare).

Isaiah D. Cooper

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