In late March 2001, Jerusalem’s Planning & Construction Committee approved the building of another 2,800 housing units for Jews in the Har-Homa neighborhood in East Jerusalem. In early April, Housing Minister Natan Sharansky announced plans to build 700 new homes in the West Bank settlements of Ma’aleh-Adumin and Alfei-Menashe. The Ha’aretz editorial staff wrote, “A government which seeks to argue that its goal is to reach a solution to the conflict with the Palestinians through peaceful means…must announce an end to construction in the settlements.”
JPL agrees. If the Sharon government is truly interested in reaching an agreement with the Palestinians, why, then, would this construction be approved? The central question is: What does Sharon really seek with his proposal of an interim-agreement? Does he truly want to put the permanent status issues on hold, and seek progress on matters of security, economic cooperation, and development? Or does he mean only to put negotiations on issues like Jerusalem on hold, while trying to change the reality on the ground? Is his objective to make it impossible for any future Israeli government to again offer the compromises Barak offered on Jerusalem?
In this context, the Jewish Peace Lobby issued an open letter to Prime Minister Sharon and President Bush, signed by 100 American rabbis. Focusing on Sharon’s desire to achieve an interim agreement with the Palestinians that does not take up the Jerusalem question, the Rabbis noted that such an interim agreement would require “that neither side use its power to unilaterally foreclose solutions to those issues that are postponed.”