US Mideast envoy George Mitchell believes people are misinterpreting the Obama administration's pressure on Israel as well as the Arab response to Washington's regional peace push.
"One of the public misimpressions is that it's all been about settlements," Mitchell told the New York Times in an interview published Sunday. "It is completely inaccurate to portray this as, 'We're only asking the Israelis to do things.' We are asking everybody to do things."
"These are discussions among friends, not disputes among adversaries."
Like the song says, "I'm just a soul whose intentions are good; please don't let me be misunderstood."
There are two types of quarrels: Those based on misunderstanding, and those based on understanding only too well.
What George Mitchell is asking Israel to do is to give up its capital city. What are friends for after all, if not to oblige other friends with little favors like that? This is an even handed policy. The Saudis are asked to allow Israeli overflights (and refuse) and Israel is asked to renounce sovereignty over its capital city. Everybody is asked to do something for the cause, and to please smile while doing it.
The heart of the disagreement is that the US insists that Jerusalem is just another "settlement," that the US does not recognize Israeli sovereignty in any part of Jerusalem, and that they can and should dictate to Israel what policies to adopt in Jerusalem and when and where to build. The most recent "misunderstanding" was a public and ugly US protest against removal of illegal Palestinian occupants squatting in propery owned by Jews. It may not be wise for Israel to build in areas that might be subject to future negotiations, but it certainly understandable that Israel will enforce Israeli law, backed by a supreme court decision, in an area that is declared by Israel to be under its sovereignty. There is no misunderstanding. The problem is not that the United States wants Israel to negotiate, but rather that the US is telling Israel and the world that there is nothing to negotiate about in Jerusalem, since the city does not belong to Israel according to them, but to a hypothetical international administration or Palestinian state. This is not a disagreement among friends. It is a hostile diplomatic act. In the 19 years of illegal Jordanian occupation of East Jerusalem, the United States did not once protest any Jordanian action, including the building of King Hussein's summer house, or the wrecking of the last remnants of the Jewish quarter and the Jewish cemetery in the Mount of Olives.
There is no misunderstanding of US policy in this regard whatever and the policy is unmistakable. The United States does not recognize any part of Jerusalem, East or West, as part of Israel, and certainly not as Israel's capital city. UN Security Council Resolution 250 condemned Israel for holding a military parade (the Independence Day parade) in Jerusalem in 1968. The parade was held in West Jerusalem only. The United States did not veto the resolution. The Web site of the United States Conuslate in Jerusalem is all about Palestinian Arabs - in the West Bank and in Gaza. Not a word about Jews, though Jerusalem has a Jewish majority. The consulate refuses to recognize that there are Jews living in any part of Jerusalem it seems. Are they trying to tell us something?
Perhaps some of the misunderstanding is caused by the reticence of the Israeli government, which has never openly protested against the hostile policy of the United States. On the one hand, Israeli governments grandiosely proclaim that "United Jerusalem is the Eternal Capital of Israel." On the other hand, no Israeli government has seriously tried to get the United States to recognize even Kiriat Hayovel and Rehavia as part of Israel.
West Jerusalem, of course, has been part of Israel since 1948, but the US, to placate Arab opinion, continues to pretend that the internationalization of Jerusalem mandated by the UN in 1947 is a reality. The policy of the United States government regarding Jerusalem is contrary to its own laws, since the 1995: Jerusalem Embassy Act mandated that the United States recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and mandated that the embassy must be moved there and that US citizens born in Jerusalem be registered as having been born in Israel. Using a hypocritical loophole, the law has been ignored by successive presidents. If you think this policy is bizarre, you can write to the consulate at JerusalemACS@state.gov and to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: http://contact-us.state.gov/cgi-bin/state.cfg/php/enduser/ask.php, U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20520, 202-647-4000