A Further Perspective

A Peace of Obama’s Mind

Jerusalem is in the news again.

By 3.19.10

There is a wall of sorrow
Standing in Jerusalem
Repentance, joy and knowledge
Are her adornments, her refrain,
You can build yet upon her
The foundations deeply lain
Though she's all that does remain…
The many travelers near her
Taking pictures, going home
Never see her sorrow
Never hear her moan
I've been to her midst darkness
And I almost passed her by…
She is our reminder
Her expression not quite stone
Her silence is her beauty
And her sorrow is our own…

-- Avraham Rosenblum
The Kotel Song, 1980

The last time I said Kaddish at the Holy Wall
I looked at those stones
At those holy stones
And I realized those stones are not made out of stone.
The holy stones are made out of tears
Tears of my father
Tears of my grandfather
And I looked at those holy stones and I saw six million little tears…

-- Shlomo Carlebach
I Heard the Wall Singing, 1968

Jerusalem is in the news again. Something to do with a few housing units being announced in a way calculated to anger Vice President Biden upon his arrival in Israel. An insult, said Joe, echoed by Hillary, amplified by Gibbs, magnified by Axelrod. No thought of the insult expressed by the visit of Biden, with Obama still loath to come in person after 15 months in office.

Putting the proximate cause of strife aside, a much larger issue emerges from this event. It is of utmost historical significance and is ignored at the peril of reality.

It is the notion that Jerusalem will be divided in a final peace treaty. This is now just short of explicitly accepted in all government and media discussions of the negotiating process. What is more, diplomats, bureaucrats and pundits have now begun to signal comfort in the expectation that the Arab half of Jerusalem will then become the capital of the Palestinian state.

This is one of those classic bits of myth that lodge themselves into otherwise reasonable crania but explode upon the minutest examination.

Assuming no other barrier existed to ceding the land itself, this could never workably be the capital city of Palestine. No way could Israel allow Jerusalem to be the capital of another country while moving its capital to Tel Aviv. This would be a national humiliation beyond imagining. Has any nation ever moved its parliament building out of a city to make peace with a stateless group of indigenous people? The idea is absurd. The other solution, for Jerusalem to function simultaneously as the capital of two separate countries not hitherto noted for comity, is yet more ridiculous.

For the United States to encourage Palestinians in this dream is to foster a delusion that can only end badly.

This utilitarian argument is the least of the problems. The essence of the holy land of Israel is captured in Jerusalem. Both temples stood there, and the Wailing Wall remains as the heart of the nation. As the great poet, Judah Halevi (1075-1141), expressed (in a line later absorbed into Naomi Shemer's song Jerusalem of Gold): "I am a harp for all your music."

The Jewish People will never again accept the city being divided. The Israel Defense Force would mount a large-scale mutiny. The entire country of Israel would erupt into demonstration. No government could impose this without a referendum and no referendum would get upward of 20 percent, or whatever the number of college professors on the voting rolls.

Religiously, romantically, symbolically, sentimentally, Jerusalem is Israel in the eyes of world Jewry. Ironically perhaps, Jews outside Israel identify with Jerusalem as their spiritual home more so than Israelis who live in other cities. It is not unrealistic to expect hundreds of thousands of Jews to stand up at their desks across the globe and head to the airport to block the division of Jerusalem with their bodies.

Ain't happenin'. Jerusalem, all of it, will belong to the Jewish People forever and no Israeli government can put it on the table in a horse trade of any kind. Too many tears have been shed, too much blood has been spilled. The prophets promised this return and against all logical trend of history it has been achieved. No one is about to dismantle it to pacify some bullies.

This would be true even if the Palestinians were reasonable people represented by leaders empowered to obligate them in national arrangements. Instead the Palestinian territory is already divided into two hegemonies, Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza, and only Fatah is potentially negotiating.

If Obama, Biden and Clinton entertain legitimate aspirations for peace between Israel and Palestinians, they can begin by abandoning the foolery about Jerusalem.

"Jerusalem is surrounded by great mountains (I.e. threatening nations) but God encircles His nation from now until forever." This verse in Psalm 125:2 is one of many in this vein. And if you were waiting for a sign from Heaven that this promise will be honored, here it is: Prime Minister Netanyahu's son, Avner, won the National Bible Quiz in Israel this very week. The father of the Prime Minister, just turned 100, tutored his grandson to prepare for the competition. The tears of the grandfathers will continue to water the fertile spiritual fields of Jewish Jerusalem for a very long time.

In honor of the birth of my sixth grandchild, Benjamin Stern, in (yes!) East Jerusalem.

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About the Author

Jay D. Homnick, commentator and humorist, is deputy editor of The American Spectator.