[Begin Haaretz Article]
Debate rages on World Jewry's role in peace concessions
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondent
Even before Prime Minister Ehud Olmert returns to Israel, the question of world Jewry's involvement in the domestic debate here surrounding the Annapolis process, especially the issue of Jerusalem, is taking center stage. During two press briefings this week, Olmert stressed that international Jewish organizations have no right to intervene in Israeli government decisions on the peace negotiations. On the eve of the Annapolis summit, he said, "This question [the role of diaspora Jewry] was determined a long time ago, and the Israeli government has the sovereign right to negotiate on behalf of Israel." These statements angered the leadership of one of the largest U.S. Jewish organizations, the Orthodox Union, which unites most religious American Jews. The organization has called on the Israeli government not to alter its stance on Jerusalem several times.
The president of the union, Stephen J. Savitsky, published a declaration in response, denying his organization had tried to tell the Israeli government what to do. Political, spiritual capital However, he did note that the organization believes that all Jews have a stake in Jerusalem, and that relinquishing parts of the city, which has constituted the political and spiritual capital of the Jewish people for thousands of years, is something the government of Israel should not do.
A group called "One Jerusalem," established in recent weeks in order to fight the government plans for the city, has taken an even stronger stance. The group is chaired by former minister Natan Sharansky, who said they intend to include world Jewry in their campaign. "In matters that pertain purely to security," Sharansky said, "I accept that anyone who does not live here [Israel] does not need to interfere, and that in order to have that right, one also must bear the obligations. But to say that this is so regarding Jerusalem is, in the best-case scenario, a matter of national ignorance.
The link between the Jewish people and Jerusalem is our moral justification for the State [of Israel], and there is no way to give that up. The link to Jerusalem and yearning for Jerusalem is something that unites Jews across generations. It is the basis for religious and less-religious Jews." Sharansky is opposed to any concessions on Jerusalem, including a suggested plan to transfer "peripheral neighborhoods" to Palestinian control. "It starts at the periphery and it ends in the Muslim Quarter and the Temple Mount, and in any case, we have seen what happened in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas would be several dozen meters from the heart of the capital of Israel," he said. However, he also said that if Olmert really intends to discuss the issue, he must first invite international Jewish organizations to a broad forum and consult with them about the matter. Sharansky cites as an example Yasser Arafat, who "at Camp David, he said that he could not give the Western Wall to Israel, because Jerusalem belongs to the entire Muslim nation, so he first must go to Cairo and Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and ask them for permission."
In Israel, haredim have something of a habit of trying to boss around other kinds of jews. Apparently haredim feel that dina limalchut dina applies to them in everywhere EXCEPT Israel, because its a secular state (more on this to come). I am certainly not for splitting Jerusalem up, asking any country to split its capital with someone else is absurd, however I am glad that Olmert's administration seems to have made the Orthodox Union understand that they don't run the show.