Arutz Sheva: Israel Public Radio [Broadcast on December 18, 1996 / Tevet 8, 5757]

A LITTLE NEIGHBORHOOD ON MT. OF OLIVES

By Uri Elitzur



1. WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS LITTLE NEIGHBORHOOD?

The battle over the Jewish neighborhood opposite Mt. Of Olives - which the media calls Ras el-Amud - has reached the highest echelons. It is now the Minister of the Interior who must sign on the plans [which he later announced he would not do in the near future], and today a major Israeli newspaper reported that Prime Minister Netanyahu, under heavy American pressure, is planning to urge Minister Suissa not to sign.

I do not know if the actual report about Netanyahu is accurate, but one thing is clear: the proposed neighborhood has already passed all of the local planning boards and received all of the necessary permits, and is now lacking only one signature before the tractors start working. But instead, it is now being dealt with on the Prime Ministerial and White House levels. I've already expressed my doubts as to the veracity of the newspaper report, because it happens to be the same paper that yesterday announced in blaring headlines that the head of the GSS is considering resigning, which a few hours later turned out to be totally without basis. I have a feeling I know who is leaking incorrect information to this paper, and what his interest is, but this is not the subject for today. Today I am interested in the story itself. Why is this neighborhood arousing such a hubbub?

2. NOT RAS EL-AMUD, BUT MT. OF OLIVES

Let's start with the physical facts. At issue here is private land, owned by Jews, on the shoulder of Mt. of Olives. It is not in the "heart" of an Arab neighborhood, but rather adjacent to it, alongside the Jerusalem-Jericho highway, exactly opposite the entrance to the Mt. of Olives cemetery, right next to the large police building there - as anyone who has ever gone there to choose a gravesite knows. The Arabs say that it is in the midst of an Arab neighborhood, but the facts speak for themselves. The Israeli media, though, plays right into their hands when it calls it the "Jewish neighborhood in Ras el-Amud," instead of calling it "the Jewish neighborhood on Mt. of Olives."

But beyond its name, what is it about this little neighborhood that bothers the whole world, right up to President Clinton? Why are the Arabs so willing to make such great efforts to prevent its construction? And why is the Labor party also so willing to cooperate in this effort? After all, we are talking about Jerusalem, the city where many giant neighborhoods are always being built, and where others are constantly being expanded. Every project built for Jews in the city in the past several years borders on an Arab neighborhood or two. That's how Jerusalem is. So why is there such a problem specifically on Mt. of Olives?

3. THE TRUE EXPLANATION

The true explanation has nothing to do with the proximity to Ras el-Amud, nor with unnecessary friction between Arabs and Jews, nor with any of the public excuses that are generally provided. The true explanation is oncealed beneath the table. There had already been a secret, semi-official agreement between the Palestinians and the heads of the Labor party during the term of the previous government, which delineated the lines along which Jerusalem was to be divided. If you remember, this was the motto which contributed to the Likud victory in the elections: "Peres will divide Jerusalem." This was not just an election motto, and it wasn't a lie. It was based on concrete information, and it was part of what became known as the Beilin-Abu Maazen agreement. They had already agreed between them on the general lines of the permanent arrangement in Jerusalem, according to which, the area of Azariyah would become "Al-Kuds," i.e., the capital of the Palestinian State. From that neighborhood, according to the plan - and this is the crux of the matter - was to pass a small corridor to the Temple Mount; for without such a territorial attachment to the Temple Mount, the Arabs never would have agreed to the partition of the city that Labor was offering them. The Jewish neighborhood that we are discussing stands exactly on the area through which the said corridor was to pass.

In sum, a Jewish neighborhood in that spot, even a small one, would wreck the entire plan for the partition of Jerusalem.

4. THE VERY FUTURE OF JERUSALEM

This, then, is the cause of this tremendous controversy, and this explains what is irking Faisal Husseini, and Arafat, and Bill Clinton. And this of course explains the pressure that Netanyahu may or may not place on Minister Suissa, and it certainly explains the tremendous pressures under which the Prime Minister himself is placed. The battle is not over a little neighborhood near Ras el-Amud or on Mt. of Olives. At issue here is nothing less than the future of Jerusalem, and the way to Temple Mount.

THE BACKGROUND TO THE MIDDLE EAST CONFLICT

Middle East Intelligence Digest -- January 1997 "For the man whose knowledge is not in order, the more he has of it, the greater will be his confusion." --

Herbert Spencer (1820-1923)

EXPOSING A MAJOR MIDEAST MYTH FOR DECADES, THE UNITED NATIONS, A SUCCESSION OF EUROPEAN BODIES, THE ARAB LEAGUE, NON-ALIGNED MOVEMENT AND ORGANIZATION OF AFRICAN UNITY HAVE CHURNED OUT THE TIRED MAXIM THAT THE PALESTINIAN QUESTION IS CENTRAL TO PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST. LET'S HELP SLAUGHTER THAT HOLY COW.

Although Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the subsequent Gulf War went a long way towards destroying the myth of Palestinian centrality to the Mideast conflict, some have sought to blame even THAT intra-Arab conflict on Israel.

Argued British writer Bryn Jones in 1991: "To Arabs, the frightening technological weaponry unleashed on Iraq, and the vetoing of efforts to pressure Israel into obeying similar UN resolutions, only confirmed American intentions to protect Israel, whatever her injustices towards the Palestinians. "For most Arabs the Gulf War was always about Israel. They believe that President [George] Bush was psychologically mugged by the American Jewish lobby, that Israel used the coalition forces to fight its own war by proxy." (RESTORATION magazine, May-June 1991)

Such breathtaking assertions aside, fair-minded observers blamed the Gulf War squarely on Iraqi aggression, and Israel was, for once, not seen as the culprit. But aside from the Iraqi situation, governments and international bodies continue to this day to place "the Palestinian problem" at the core of the woes of the Middle East. Western diplomats of all ranks and extractions would solemnly point out that peace would not be achieved in the Middle East as long as the Palestinian Problem was not resolved. And each of them was utterly convinced that this was so 'because, after all, it is the core of the conflict in the region'. "

In most Arab countries, violence is used as a political tool against enemies (real and imagined) both at home and abroad. Assassinations, coups, wars, invasions, terrorism, subversion, conspiracy, torture, detention without trial and other human rights abuses have punctuated the history of the Arab world.

In their unbridled lust for power, Arab tyrants have ignored international conventions on conduct in war. Prisoners of war are routinely tortured and often murdered. At least three of the very few times gas warfare has been used anywhere since World War I involved Arabs--by Nasser in Yemen in the 1960s; by Saddam against the Iranians during the bloody Iraq-Iran War; and again by Saddam, against Kurdish civilians inside Iraq.

"Thus, the penchant for violence of Arab rulers has led to the continual prosecution of wars against Arabs and non-Arabs abroad, and the continual persecution of Arabs and non-Arabs at home," Netanyahu writes. "With such a record, it is hardly a surprise that these rulers have been paid back with a fusillade of assassination efforts, a considerable number of them successful. Between 1949 and 1992, at least 15 Arab heads of state--kings, presidents and prime ministers--were killed by Arab enemies. For example, eight of the 15 emirs who have consecutively ruled Abu Dhabi have been assassinated.

Netanyahu, a former ambassador to the United Nations, relates in his book how the UN General Assembly regularly devoted two full, week-long sessions to the "Theory of Palestinian Centrality"--the first is called "The Question of Palestine", and the second "The Situation in the Middle East". When he discovered that the same litany of Israel-bashing characterized both sessions, he stood up during the second session (in 1985), queried the duplication and waste of time, then proceeded to hand to delegates a list of Middle Eastern violence during that year not linked to the Israel-Palestinian issue, compiled by the US Foreign Broadcasting Information Service.

"Given that 1985 was widely considered an 'uneventful' year in the Middle East, this was a remarkable compilation. It was a catalogue of bombings, kidnappings, assassinations, executions, coups, hijackings, and border incursions, alongside the outright war raging at the time between Iran and Iraq. "The targets were diplomats, journalists, embassies, and airline offices. The victims were Iraqis, Moroccans, Sudanese, and Libyans ../... as well as Americans, British, French, Italians, Swiss, Dutch, Soviets, Japanese and many others."

CASUALTIES IN MIDEAST CONFLICTS:

Arab-Israeli dispute (over 5 decades) 70, 000

Algerian civil war (1954-62) 1, 000, 000

Egypt's invasion of Yemen (early 60s) 250, 000

Lebanese civil war (1975-76) 150, 000

Libya's invasion of Chad (1977-87) 100, 000

Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) 1, 000, 000+

Sudanese civil war (1988-present) 1, 000, 000+


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