The Israel government is undertaking construction of about 304 new apartments in East Jerusalem as its prime minister prepares for meetings with Palestinians to discuss peace. President Mahmoud Abbas made it clear there would be serious difficulties in conducting peace if settlement construction continues in East Jerusalem. A Fatah spokesperson, Abu Rdeneh bluntly stated: “there is need to freeze the settlement activities in order to create the appropriate atmosphere to bring progress in the peace process.” President Mubarak joined in the Arab cry for an end to settlement construction and focusing on the only thing that emerged from the famous Annapolis conference– peace talks. Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni sharply criticized the Egyptian effort to prevent arms smuggling into Gaza and in response, Egypt’s Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman promised his country would take renewed steps to halt smuggling.
There is a time and place for everything, and right now constructing 304 apartments is the wrong move. Some Israelis, undoubtedly, will argue the point of a principle that Israel has a right to build. The only important principle right now is working for a comprehensive peace, not worrying about a few apartments. In the end, Israel must recognize that East Jerusalem should become the capital of the new nation of Palestine. Israelis have every right to express concerns given the past history when Jordan controlled East Jerusalem and desecrated Jewish cemeteries and synagogues. Hopefully, that era is over and when peace arrives all religious institutions will be accorded respect. Right now, Israel must focus on peace, not apartments.