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Obama Doesn’t Get Jerusalem

Jerusalem is not a settlement – it is the center of Jewish religious and political life. The President fundamentally has things wrong on Jerusalem.

By MORTIMER ZUCKERMAN

Thanks to a deadlock engineered by the U.S. government, the Middle East peace process is stalled. President Obama began this stalemate last year when he called for a settlement freeze, and he escalates it now with a major change of American policy regarding Jerusalem.

The president seeks to prohibit Israel from any construction in its capital, in particular in a Jewish suburb of East Jerusalem called Ramat Shlomo. This, despite the fact that all former administrations have unequivocally understood that the area in question would remain part of Israel under any final peace agreement. Objecting to any building in this East Jerusalem neighborhood is tantamount to getting the Israelis to agree to the division of Jerusalem before final status talks with the Palestinians even begin.

From the start of his presidency, Mr. Obama has undermined Israel’s confidence in U.S. support. He uses the same term—”settlements”—to describe massive neighborhoods that are home to tens of thousands of Jews and illegal outposts of a few families. His ambiguous use of this loaded word raises the question for Israelis about whether this administration really understands the issue.
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