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Entries in Jerusalem (4)


Israel-Palestine: How Netanyahu Demolished the Plan A of the Peace Process

Related Post: Israel-Palestine - Netanyahu’s Two-State Magical Sidestep
Transcript: Netanyahu Speech on Israel-Palestine (14 June)

Netanyahu Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s carefully-framed speech on 14 June portrayed a peaceful Israel pursuing all necessary steps for a regional peace agreement.

It's when you read the speech more closely that problems emerge. Netanyahu’s priority of economic development rather than political agreements, Israel’s pre-conditions for peace (including no pre-conditions on Israel), and its political and social securitization are out of step with dynamics in the Middle East.

Netanyahu's speech was bolstered by developments  such as the conflict between Fatah and Hamas. Since the beginning of June, the tension in the West Bank has soared dramatically. After several Hamas members were killed by Fatah, a Damascus-based Hamas spokesman, Talal Nasser, called on Palestinians to fight the Palestinian Authority as though they were fighting the Israeli occupation. In response, the Palestinian police arrested 36 Hamas supporters in the West Bank. Hamas’s unsustainable and irrational steps were partly curbed by its chief in Damascus, Khaled Mashaal, who complained instead about pre-conditions set by the Obama Administration. He declared that Hamas would not be an obstacle to the peace process if it was included as a partner in Israeli talks with the Palestinian Authority.

However, in the eyes of important actors in the international community, there is no legitimate ground for Hamas unless it confirms the conditions of the Quartet: recognition of Israel, ending terrorist activities and abiding by the past agreements signed by the PA. And Hamas will not issue that confirmation as long as Gaza and the West Bank are divided both geographically and politically.

Thus Netanyahu can rely upon the "existential threat" of a strong Hamas troubling Fatah in the West Bank and, more importantly, relying of the backing of a "potentially nuclear-armed" Iran.

There are, of course, issues beyond Hamas. How can there be a peace process with Fatah while settlements are still not frozen and the proposal of a demilitarized Palestinian state includes "ironclad security provisions" for Israeli security forces? How can Netanyahu foresee a real regional peace agreement without giving any concessions  to Israel's Arab neighbours, for example, when his Syrian colleague Bashar Assad has already declared that there will be no negotiations without the promise to return the Golan Heights to Syria?

For Netanyahu, the wonder of "Hamas" is that it can always trump these difficulties because of the overriding notion of Israeli "security".

Securitization of Israel’s Existence

The remarkable threats in Netanyahu’s speech were those of nuclear weapons and radical Islam. Because Iran is considered as the nexus of these two, it is the number one enemy for Israel. Radical Islam’s branches – Hamas and Hezbollah – follow:
The Iranian threat looms large before us, as was further demonstrated yesterday. The greatest danger confronting Israel, the Middle East, the entire world and human race, is the nexus between radical Islam and nuclear weapons....Hamas will not even allow the Red Cross to visit our kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, who has spent three years in captivity, cut off from his parents, his family and his people.

The contrast to these menaces is the unique character of Israelis. They are the ones whose forefathers and prophets lived in the same lands where they now live; they are the only nation linking their state’s existence with religion and history. It is Israelis who suffered from expulsions, pogroms, massacres, and a Holocaust which has no parallel in human history. Despite these hardships, it was Israelis who formed their own state.

The threat of Iran-Hezbollah-Hamas endangers this unique "existence", word used three times by Netanyahu in his speech. Each time, "existence" referred not only to community but to Israeli institutions: “It is clear that any demand for resettling Palestinian refugees within Israel undermines Israel’s continued existence as the state of the Jewish people....On a matter so critical to the existence of Israel, we must first have our security needs addressed....Our people have already proven that we can do the impossible. Over the past 61 years, while constantly defending our existence, we have performed wonders.”

Netanyahu’s Investment in "Peace"

But how to deal with the issue that, while Netanyahu might have an emphasis on "security", others would be looking for "peace"?

In a speech where every word was selected carefully, “peace” was used on 43 occasions, 15 more times than Barack Obama invoked it in his Cairo speech. The word “war” was used seven times, once to highlight Israel’s success in the 1967 Six-Day War, six times to depict the ugliness of wars in general.

In addition, there were two references to the religion of the Torah and the prophet. This was to show one party in the conflict, Israelis, demanding peace not just in their political debates but also in their prayers. This religious commitment put forth Israel’s honesty when “the root of the conflict was, and remains, the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own”. Israelis struggle for peace day and night while Arabs dismiss “the truth”.

Israel’s Pre-Conditions for A Two-State Solution under “The Road Map”

Netanyahu's headline statement, according to many in the Western media, was that he finally accepted "peace" through a two-state solution. However, the corollary of Netanyahu’s demand that Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state is that Israelis will not accept the right of return of Palestinians who left their homes after 1948 war. His insistence, “The territory under Palestinian control must be demilitarized with ironclad security provisions for Israel,” means that Israel will control all borders, reserving the right to intervene, in the name of both Israeli and Palestinian securities, with forces surrounding the entire Palestinian territories. This may also include Israeli defense of Jewish settlements and some military outposts inside the West Bank.

When all this is taken into consideration, as well as Netanyahu’s declaration, “Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel,” it is clear that the Israeli Government’s demands are distant from the "two-state" conditions in United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338. In this case, the Road Map loses its meaning, even before parties agree on progress towards regional peace.

The Justifications of Preconditions

Netanyahu’s approach was a combination of religious belief and a “security” perspective to justify a position as necessary rather than illegitimate. He said:
The connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel has lasted for more than 3500 years. Judea and Samaria, the places where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, David and Solomon, and Isaiah and Jeremiah lived, are not alien to us. This is the land of our forefathers.

This subtle move put a “history” of thousands of years above international law to establish the “unique” character of Israel. And it also ensured that the security perspective was not forgotten. Netanyahu set this up through a clear distinction between Israel, with its values and culture, and those who would always remain outside that ideal:
But we must also tell the truth in its entirety: within this homeland lives a large Palestinian community. We do not want to rule over them, we do not want to govern their lives, we do not want to impose either our flag or our culture on them.

And because Palestinians can never be part of the unique character, with its inherent "peace", security's conditions must be placed upon them from the outset of negotiations: 
Without these two conditions (the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and the demilitarization of the Palestinian state), there is a real danger that an armed Palestinian state would emerge that would become another terrorist base against the Jewish state, such as the one in Gaza… Without this, sooner or later, these territories will become another Hamastan. And that we cannot accept.

Once again, to give substance to the threat of the ideological-cultural outsider, Netanyahu invoked specific enemies, "In order to achieve peace, we must ensure that Palestinians will not be able to import missiles into their territory, to field an army, to close their airspace to us, or to make pacts with the likes of Hezbollah and Iran.”

The Future of Settlements

The problem for Netanyahu, entering this speech, is that all his definitions of a proper Israel and a potentially dangerous Palestine did not cover the in-between area: Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. Therefore, he began by trying to pull those settlements back into "Israel", not geographically but on a higher cultural ground:
The territorial question will be discussed as part of the final peace agreement. In the meantime, we have no intention of building new settlements or of expropriating additional land for existing settlements… But there is a need to enable the residents to live normal lives, to allow mothers and fathers to raise their children like families elsewhere. The settlers are neither the enemies of the people nor the enemies of peace. Rather, they are an integral part of our people, a principled, pioneering and Zionist public.

On a less exalted level, Netanyahu had said: No Freeze on Settlements (see the follow-up to the speech in Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington).

But, to return to Netanyahu's attempted higher plane of discussion, he never referred to "the West Bank".  Instead, he used "Judea and Samaria", the Biblical expression used for the West Bank, three times. Once more, an eternal religious invocation --- one which can only be claimed by Jewish people --- was deployed to keep open the issue of "legitimacy" in a disputed area.

Indeed, "Judaea and Samaria" provided the foundation for Netanyahu's claim of no connection between Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands and terrorist attacks:
Those who think that the continued enmity toward Israel is a product of our presence in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, is confusing cause and consequence… The attacks against us began in the 1920s. We evacuated every last inch of the Gaza strip, we uprooted tens of settlements and evicted thousands of Israelis from their homes, and in response, we received a hail of missiles on our cities, towns and children… The claim that territorial withdrawals will bring peace with the Palestinians, or at least advance peace, has up till now not stood the test of reality.

Putting the Burden on the Palestinian Authority

Netanyahu was clear, "The Palestinians must decide between the path of peace and the path of Hamas. The Palestinian Authority will have to establish the rule of law in Gaza and overcome Hamas.”

Given Netanyahu's refusal to make any concessions on the Israeli position, it is obvious that there can be no positive answer from the other side. The Palestinian Authority's leader Mahmoud Abbas dismissed Netanyahu’s speech as “sabotaging” peace efforts. Nemer Hammad, an advisor to Mahmoud Abbas said, "Netanyahu’s speech had not brought anything new."

Netanyahu and his Cabinet members knew that this would be the reaction. The speech was not meant to open negotations but to frame them in such a way that they could not be started. Why? The Israeli Prime Minister's strategy is to buy time and then, in more favourable political condition, returns to talks based on his agenda of the economic development of the West Bank. As he said in another part of his speech: “I call on the Arab countries to cooperate with the Palestinians and with us to advance an economic peace. An economic peace is not a substitute for a political peace, but an important element to achieving it.”

Almost two weeks have now passed since Netanyahu's speech, responding to President Obama's original plan for Israeli-Palestinian talks.  The Plan B of a wider engagement between the US and Iran in the region, alongside or awaiting those talks, is now comatose after turmoil in Tehran. A Plan C, based on an anti-Iran rhetoric as well as changed relations with countries like Syria, may come into play.

All this, however, is speculation beyond immediate significance: the Netanyahu effect --- blending security, Israeli exceptionalism, and religion --- has been to take Plan A off the table.

Video and Transcript: Clinton and Israel's Lieberman on Settlements and Iran 

Related Post: Iran after the Elections - Confession, Accusation and Warning from Israel

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On Wednesday, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his US colleague, Hillary Clinton, met in Washington. The main subjects for discussion were the peace process in the Middle East, with particular attention to the American demand for a freeze on expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and the Iranian elections.

Speaking to the press after the meeting, Clinton began by underlining the special relationship between Israel and the US. This, however, was only a prelude to more substantive differences with both Clinton and Lieberman being "clear" about their positions. The Israeli Foreign Minister said:
We cannot accept this vision about absolutely completely freezing call for our settlements. I think that we must keep the natural growth. The Prime Minister spoke about this in his speech. I think that this position, it’s – this view, this approach, it’s very clear.

Clinton was more measured, even cautious, in her statement but --- between the words --- calling for a shift in Israeli position:
Well, I think if one looks at Israeli history, there have been prime ministers going back to the beginning of Israelis’ statehood that have staked out positions which have changed over time. I personally have known such prime ministers from Labor, Likud and Kadima, who started in one place, but in the process of evaluating what was in the best interests of Israel, and that has to be the primary obligation of any leader of Israel: What is in the best interests of my people and the future of my state?

And these prime ministers have moved to positions that they never would have thought they could have advocated before they started looking hard and thinking hard about what the future should be. But that’s what negotiations are for.

While the US has yet to convince Israel on the settlements issue, Clinton did indicate that Washington had succeeded in another important area: keeping Iran in the background, rather than at the forefront, of US-Israel discussions.  Speaking about the current crisis over the Presidential election, she re-emphasized that the United States would not interfere in the internal affairs of Iran while maintaining the openness of the Obama Administration to engagement with the next Iranian Government, whoever was in charge.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon. It is my pleasure to welcome Foreign Minister Lieberman to the State Department today for his first official visit to Washington in his new role. Minister Lieberman’s visit gave me the opportunity to reaffirm the United States deep, unshakable friendship and bond with Israel. Our commitment to Israel’s security is and will remain a cornerstone of our foreign policy, and I was pleased to have this chance to express that personally to the foreign minister. The United States has no greater ally in the Middle East and no greater friend than Israel.

Because our countries are close friends, we spoke honestly and openly about a range of issues. And we are looking forward to continuing that dialogue in the U.S.-Israel strategic dialogue, which has provided a useful forum for discussion of shared concerns and challenges over recent years. We exchanged views on the Middle East, including Iran, and reiterated the need for Iran’s leaders to comply with obligations to the United Nations Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency to suspend enrichment-related and reprocessing activities. And we look forward to Iran’s response to our offers of engagement.

And of course, we also focused on efforts to bring about a comprehensive peace between Israel and her neighbors in the region. Israel’s right to exist in peace and security is undeniable and non-negotiable. Both Israelis and Palestinians deserve to live in peace and security in two states that will entail both parties fulfilling their obligations under the Roadmap.

Building on the Arab Peace Initiative, Arab states must do their part to support the Palestinian people as they develop the institutions that will sustain their state. And they must recognize Israel’s legitimacy and, in doing so, choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.

The United States will never do anything to undermine Israel’s security, and the United States also supports a viable Palestinian state. We do not believe that these two objectives are incompatible. In fact, we believe they are both critical elements of a comprehensive and secure peace.

Minister Lieberman, I hope that you enjoy your first visit to the United States as your country’s foreign minister, and I look forward to continuing our conversation and working with you more on these issues in the future.

FOREIGN MINISTER LIEBERMAN: Madame Secretary, at the outset, I would like to say to you how much the people and the Government of Israel appreciate your consistent support of Israel. We value your friendship greatly. We remember the many contributions you have made personally, even before you became a United States senator from New York. We thank you, Your Excellency, for your longstanding commitment to Israel and to strengthening the American-Israeli special relationship and friendship.

I think that we have had a good discussion today covering a broad spectrum of regional and global issues. We also covered a wide range of important bilateral topics. Madame Secretary, I thank you for your very kind hospitality today, and I look forward to our future friendly dialogue, both in Washington and in Jerusalem. Thank you.


MR. KELLY: Our first question goes to Lachlan Carmichael.

QUESTION: Yes, Minister --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Here comes the microphone, Lachlan.

QUESTION: Minister Lieberman, first, Ambassador Oren, the new ambassador to Washington, is talking about some interesting proposals on settlements. Could you elaborate on what they might be? And then for Secretary Clinton, does that mean there is some wiggle room to your statement that there should be no such settlement activity?

And finally, for both of you, did you discuss previous President George Bush’s letters, private letters to the Israeli Government? Is that issue over with?

FOREIGN MINISTER LIEBERMAN: Thank you. It’s a long question. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s actually three questions.

FOREIGN MINISTER LIEBERMAN: Three questions, yeah. First of all, we really don’t have any intention to change the demographic balance in Judea and Samaria. But we think that, you know, as – in every place around the world, baby are born (inaudible), people get married, some pass away. And we cannot accept – we cannot accept this vision about absolutely completely freezing call for our settlements. I think that we must keep the natural growth. Prime minister spoke about this in his speech. I think that this position, it’s – this view, this approach, it’s very clear.

And also, we had some understandings with the previous administration and we tried to keep this direction. And we are, of course, ready for immediately direct talks with the Palestinians.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as President Obama, Senator Mitchell and I have said, we want to see a stop to the settlements. We think that is an important and essential part of pursuing the efforts leading to a comprehensive peace agreement and the creation of a Palestinian state next to a Israeli-Jewish state that is secure in its borders and future. We believe that this process which Senator Mitchell is quarterbacking for us has just begun. There are a number of critical concerns, many of which overlap in their impact and significance, that will be explored in the coming weeks as Senator Mitchell engages more deeply into the specifics as to where the Israelis and the Palestinians are willing to go together.

I think that the whole issue that you’ve raised is one that we’ve expressed our opinion on. And in looking at the history of the Bush Administration, there were no informal or oral enforceable agreements. That has been verified by the official record of the Administration and by the personnel in the positions of responsibility. Our former ambassador Dan Kurtzer has written an op-ed that appeared in the last few days that lays out our position on that.

MR. KELLY: Our next question, Israeli television, Channel 2.

QUESTION: Thank you. Madame Secretary, I’m interested to know, how do you envision any progress, any chance for achievement of progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track when the Israeli prime minister and the foreign minister have put so many conditions on the existing of a Palestinian state, conditions that are all – all-out refused by their Arab neighbors, including the Palestinians? And when you hear that the Israeli – current Israeli Government refuses totally to talk about your demand of freezing the settlement activity, how do you envision a progress on that track?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think if one looks at Israeli history, there have been prime ministers going back to the beginning of Israelis’ statehood that have staked out positions which have changed over time. I personally have known such prime ministers from Labor, Likud and Kadima, who started in one place, but in the process of evaluating what was in the best interests of Israel, and that has to be the primary obligation of any leader of Israel: What is in the best interests of my people and the future of my state?

And these prime ministers have moved to positions that they never would have thought they could have advocated before they started looking hard and thinking hard about what the future should be. But that’s what negotiations are for.

QUESTION: Do you hold out that Netanyahu and Lieberman will follow through (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I leave that to them to decide. I’m just reflecting on history and on people who have been in these positions over the last 30, 40 years. And there has been an evolution in thought. And I thought Prime Minister Netanyahu, in recognizing the aspirations of the Palestinians for a state of their own in his speech on Sunday night, said something that many people were waiting to hear him say.

MR. KELLY: Next question, Charlie Wolfson from CBS News.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, on Iran, and also for the foreign minister. The Iranians have protested U.S. actions through the Swiss ambassador today. Could you bring us up to date on those protests? And there have also been criticisms or reports of criticisms about U.S. interference in Iranian affairs because of the call to Twitter, if you could comment on that.

And for the foreign minister, does the outcome of the Iranian election change Israel’s position in any way, and were your discussions today – did they touch on that, and any actions you asked the Administration to do?

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s four questions for the foreign minister. (Laughter.) We have very creative reporters on both sides here. (Laughter.)

The United States believes passionately and strongly in the basic principle of free expression. We believe that it is a fundamental human right for people to be able to communicate, to express their opinions, to take positions. And this is a view that goes back to the founding of our country, and we stand firmly behind it.

And therefore, we promote the right of free expression. And it is the case that one of the means of expression, the use of Twitter, is a very important one not only to the Iranian people, but now increasingly to people around the world, and most particularly young people. I wouldn’t know a Twitter from a tweeter – (laughter) – but apparently, it is very important. And I think keeping that line of communications open and enabling people to share information, particularly at a time when there was not many other sources of information, is an important expression of the right to speak out and to be able to organize that we value.

FOREIGN MINISTER LIEBERMAN: Thank you. As somebody said before you, we support evolution, not a revolution, and we never interfered in any internal affairs of the different countries. And what it’s important for us, not the personal creation, but the creation of policy. And what we saw during this elections, it was only one point that every candidates were united: its achieving, quote, nuclear capability; and maybe the other point, the hatred to Israel. What it’s important for us, it’s real – not the domestic problems of Iran, but their policy. And we hope that they will change their policy.

MR. KELLY: Last question for Channel One, Israel Television.

QUESTION: Thank you. Madame Secretary, given the latest unrest in Iran and the very brutal way the regime there is moving to quash these protests, does the Administration still believe there is room to engage diplomatically with Iran? And are you concerned that such engagement might embolden actually Ahmadinejad and his regime?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me say that the people of Iran deserve the right to have their voices heard and their votes counted. The outcome of any election should reflect the will of the people. And it is for the Iranians to determine how they resolve this internal protest concerning the outcome of the recent election. But it is a fundamental value that the United States holds with respect to free and fair and credible elections.

With regard to engagement, obviously we intend to pursue engagement because we think it’s in the interests of the United States and the world community to discuss with the Iranian Government important matters such as the one Minister Lieberman raised concerning their intentions for their nuclear program, their support of terrorism, their interference with the affairs of their neighbors and other states.

So yes, we think there is much to talk about. And I would think it’s a useful exercise to look back on history and to see where countries, most particularly my own, have engaged in ongoing diplomatic discussions with countries whose regimes we’ve disapproved of, that we rejected. We never stopped negotiating with the former Soviet Union. They invaded countries. They promoted unrest. But we knew we had an opportunity to learn more, to discuss fully, and perhaps to reach better understandings than we might have in the absence of such engagement, so we pursued it.

We are doing this out of what we view as our interest and the interests of friends and allies such as Israel. So now we are obviously waiting to see the outcome of the internal Iranian processes, but our intent is to pursue whatever opportunities might exist in the future with Iran to discuss these matters.

Thank you all.

UPDATED After the Obama Speech: Israel Re-Positions on Settlements, Two-State Solution

Related Post: Jerusalem - Obama the Pragmatist Puts A Challenge to Israel
Related Post: After the Obama Speech - Hamas Asks, "Is He Ready to Walk the Way He Talks?"

israel-flag-west-bank1UPDATE: Israeli Benjamin Netanyahu, to seize the initiative or to fend off US pressure, declared at the start of today's Cabinet meeting that he would deliver "a major speech" next week on Israeli foreign policy: ""We want to achieve peace with the Palestinians and with the countries of the Arab world, while attempting to reach maximum understanding with the U.S. and our friends around the world."

Meanwhile, the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reports, "Senior U.S. officials, including President Barack Obama's Mideast envoy George Mitchell, say they might propose immediate talks on setting Israel's border along the West Bank." This is a clever counter to Israel's position that it should not halt the construction of settlements, as "those blocs will remain in Israel under a final-status agreement". Washington has thus upped the ante, forcing Tel Aviv to consider a border (and thus a two-state) resolution.

It may be less than 48 hours since President Obama's speech in Cairo, but the US and Israel are already manoeuvring --- and testing each other --- over Palestine.

The Netanyahu Government appears to be giving some ground in the face of Obama's strong line for a two-state solution and a freeze on Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Israel Radio reports that "officials in Jerusalem assessed that Israel will eventually have no other option but to accept the establishment of a Palestinian state".

The move is tactical, conceding on the general, long-term aim so Israel can hold the line on immediate objectives: "If Netanyahu agrees to adopt the road map peace plan, he will prevent Obama's administration from pressuring Israel into accepting the establishment of a Palestinian state in different circumstances." Specifically, "[Israeli] senior diplomats involved in preparing US envoy George Mitchell's upcoming visit to Israel reportedly said that Netanyahu will insist on continued settlement construction to accommodate natural growth".

And, beyond Netanyahu, there were other signs of Israelis digging in on the settlements question. Hours after Obama's speech, settlers and activists rebuilt an illegal outpost dismantled the previous day by security forces. On Friday morning, settlers constructed a new outpost, complete with a synagogue a wooden structure called an "Obama Hut". An activist declared:
[Obama is] an Arab Muslim and a gentile, he is fighting against the Jewish people and has declared that he will continue to do so. We already stated our intention to continue to build, no matter who is fighting us - Egypt, Germany or the US."

In response, Washington sent out get-tough signals. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared at a Friday news conference, "I do not recall any agreement between Israel and George Bush's… previous government, according to which Israel will be authorized to extend the construction of settlements in the West Bank." Following up Clinton's statement, American officials told Israeli counterparts that the US would delay moving its Embassy form Tel Aviv to Jerusalem for six months.

Jerusalem: Obama the Pragmatist Puts A Challenge to Israel

Related Post: After the Obama Speech - Hamas Asks, “Is He Ready to Walk the Way He Talks?”
Related Post: After the Obama Speech: Israel Re-Positions on Settlements, Two-State Solution

jerusalem-panorama-500On Friday, the Obama Administration announced that it was delaying the decision on moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem for another six months.

The decision is significant in two ways. First, it separates Obama the President from Obama the Presidential candidate. Last spring, when he was still not quite the Democratic nominee for President, Obama declared to the conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided."

Second, the delay is a gesture of goodwill to Arab states, hoping that they in return will make some symbolic step of reconciliation with Israel. Leaders of these states would prefer a longer-term US suspension of the move to Jerusalem but will weclome this as an initial signal from Washington in the start-up of the peace process.

With this decision, Obama the "pragmatist" has again come to the fore, rebuffing the declaration of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on 21 May that “Jerusalem would be the capital of Israel forever”. On the same day, Obama outlined this pragmatism in an  interview with C-SPAN:
SCULLY: Your Senior Advisor David Axelrod describes you as a pragmatist, what does that mean?

OBAMA: Well, I think what it means is that I don’t approach problems by asking myself, is this a conservative – is there a conservative approach to this or a liberal approach to this, is there a Democratic or Republican approach to this. I come at it and say, what’s the way to solve the problem, what’s the way to achieve an outcome where the American people have jobs or their health care quality has improved or our schools are producing well educated workforce of the 21st century.

And I am willing to tinker and borrow and steal ideas from just about anybody if I think they might work. And we try to base most of our decisions on what are the facts, what kind of evidence is out there, have programs or policies been thought through.

I spend a lot of time sitting with my advisors and just going through a range of options. And if they are only bringing me options that have been dusted off the shelf, that are the usual stale ideas, then a lot of times I ask them, well, what do our critics say, do they have ideas that maybe we haven’t thought of.

Now that issue of pragmatism crosses to Israel. Given the Friday decision and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's guarantee that East Jerusalem would be the capital of the Palestinian state, how does Netanyahu --- facing a difficult position in his Cabinet and with Israeli public opinion --- respond?