Imagine if the City of San Diego, California decided to demolish illegally constructed homes, all built without building permits in an area that the City had set aside for parkland. Imagine that the City proceeded entirely in accordance with California law, through the court system, and even offered compensation to any of the homeowners who could prove that they held title to the land where their illegally constructed homes were located. Imagine further that the homes in question all belonged to persons of Mexican descent, some of them American citizens, some of them Mexican nationals living in the United States. Now imagine if the Mexican Foreign Minister were to criticize the demolitions, warning that if the City of San Diego proceeded with them it would hurt Mexic0-U.S. relations. How would the U.S. State Deparment react to that criticism?
Well, substitute U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Mexican Foreign Minister, and the City of Jerusalem for the City of San Diego, and that is what occurred this past week during Secretary Clinton's visit to Israel. She publicly criticized the Jerusalem Municipality's efforts to demolish some 80 buildings illegally constructed by Arabs on land earmarked for an archeological park. Her excuse--the action would violate Israel's "obligations entered into under the road map," and would be "unhelpful" in furthering peace prospects.
Actually, the Municipality's actions have nothing to do with the so-called "Road Map to Peace in the Middle East." The reader is invited to read the text of the Road Map, found at this BBC News site. The only arguably relevant passage is an obligation on the part of the Government of Israel to cease all settlement activity in occupied territories. However, the demolition of illegally constructed houses on public land is hardly settlement activity. Moreover, no government of Israel, including the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that accepted the Road Map, has ever accepted that the City of Jerusalem is occupied territory.
Moreover, the Palestinians have never made any gesture at fulfilling their first obligation in the first phase of the Road Map: "Palestinian leadership issues unequivocal statement reiterating Israel's right to exist in peace and security and calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire to end armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere. All official Palestinian institutions end incitement against Israel." In its May 27, 2003 acceptance with reservations of the Road Map, the Sharon government stated:
"In the first phase of the plan and as a condition for progress to the second phase, the Palestinians will complete the dismantling of terrorist organizations (Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front, the Democratic Front, Al-Aqsa Brigades and other apparatuses) and their infrastructure; collection of all illegal weapons and their transfer to a third party for the sake of being removed from the area and destroyed; cessation of weapons smuggling and weapons production inside the Palestinian Authority; activation of the full prevention apparatus and cessation of incitement. ...
"The first condition for progress will be the complete cessation of terror, violence and incitement."
Aside from all that, the Secretary of State might have familiarized herself with some basic facts about the lands in question. As an editorial in the Jerusalem Post notes:
The Jerusalem Municipality, moreover, has acted with utmost care and in legally airtight fashion. It has, if anything, conducted this affair with greater circumspection, moderation, tolerance and restraint than would any American municipality given similar circumstances. ... The municipality, furthermore, went out of its way to offer brazen offenders compensation and substitute holdings, as if their claim to the archeological site was bona fide.
And mind you, this is not just any archaeological site. Quoting again from the Jerusalem Post editorial:
Not that the circumstances anywhere else can compare to those of Emek Hamelech (King's Valley or Silwan). This area, part of a First Temple royal enclave, perhaps King David's own, is of matchless historical significance and includes sites holy to all three monotheistic religions.
"Because of its importance to three billion people of faith around the world," observed a municipal spokesman, "Emek Hamelech is not intended for residential development but as an open public space. This position is concurrent with positions taken during the British Mandate and going back to Ottoman control of the area."
In other words, the King's Valley was slated for an archaelogical park, comprising one of the most important sites in Biblical archaeology, before any of the illegal structures were built. In 1967, when Israel took possession of the land in fighting with the Kingdom of Jordan during the 1967 Israeli-Arab War, there were no structures there. Regular flooding of the area every winter prevented construction, and it was only some 20 years ago, when the Jerusalem Municipality so criticized by Secretary Clinton implemented a flood control project, that the area became buildable. Since then, Arab squatters flocked to the reclaimed land and illegally constructed a variety of structures on what was earmarked as an archeological park.
What is really a municipal matter became an internatinal issue when Hamas sympathizer Sheikh Raed Sallah of the Northern Branch Islamic Movement organized protests against the demolitions. It is not hard to understand the motives of Sheikh Sallah, Hamas and like-minded Palestinians. It has long been the policy of the Palestinians to deny Jewish historical links to the land of Israel, especially Jerusalem. The late and unlamented arch-terrorits Yassir Arafat, may his name be erased, drove President Bill Clinton nearly to distraction at Camp David in 1992, with his insistence that a Jewish Temple never stood on the Temple Mount in Jersulem. The illegal Arab squatters in the King's Valley already have wrought considerable, often irreversible damage to some of the world's most unique biblical-era relics. Now Mr. Clinton's wife seems to be offering moral support for the Palestinians' decidedly immoral effort to erase Jewish history, both ancient and recent.