The Israeli Cabinet's decision to allow voting for the Palestinian legislative elections to take place in Jerusalem later this month was a solution to a problem that had no good answers. The move brings with it several serious problems.
Most troubling is the fact that the Hamas terrorist movement will be on the ballot. In recent months, Israel had threatened to stop the elections altogether if parties that still formally insisted upon the destruction of the Jewish state were included in the voting. But after further reflection and some not-so-subtle pressure from the United States on the issue, Israel has relented.
Yet there are also some advantages to this policy.
If Israel had been the one to squelch the elections then it – rather than the corruption and chaos that characterizes the Palestinian Authority – would have been blamed for the demise of a short-lived Arab "democracy." P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas is looking for any excuse to stop voting that might confirm that Hamas is gaining on his own Fatah Party. Better for Israel to let Abbas walk into that trap rather than to let him blame it on the Jews. Though Abbas' followers are just as intent on terror as Hamas, the favorable view of the Palestinian leader in Western capitals gives them immunity for their crimes. If Hamas becomes part of the Authority, then it will be incumbent on the United States and the European Union to make good on their pledges to halt aid to the Palestinians.
The decision to allow Palestinians to vote in a place over which Israel claims sovereignty makes it look as if a future partition of Jerusalem is not unlikely. Though Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has spoken of the city's indivisibility, he's also been quoted as being open to the possibility of giving up the city's Arab neighborhoods. If that's the will of the Israeli people, then like it or not, the Diaspora must stand by any decisions eventually made. What we do have a right to ask for on this issue is honesty.
If Olmert intends on standing fast on Jerusalem, he will have the support of world Jewry. If not, he'll probably still get little effective opposition from abroad. Either way, he and his government – or whoever wins the next election – should tell us the truth and prepare us for the reality that will, no doubt, soon unfold.
Never Too Late for Sorry
The U.S. Senate conducted an unseemly confirmation process last spring for President Bush's nominee for the post of ambassador to the United Nations. In a partisan proceeding that was followed by a filibuster, the attempt to confirm John Bolton was thwarted. Most of the complaints about Bolton had to do with his brusque personality, as well as his loyalty to administration policies and cynicism about the United Nations itself. But refusing to be daunted, Bush installed Bolton in the post via a recess appointment, which again caused some partisans to howl.
But after only a few months on the job, Bolton has not disappointed. In particular, he has been a powerful voice calling for reform and an end to the world body's discrimination against Israel.
This month, in fact, he registered a formal protest with Secretary General Kofi Annan for his appearance at the world body's so-called "International Day of Solidarity With the Palestinian People." At this travesty, Annan appeared in front of a large map of the Middle East, from which Israel had been erased. Noting that the event took place only days after the latest threats of annihilation against the Jewish state had been made by Iran, Bolton threatened to cut off U.S. funding of the United Nations if it continued to promote anti-Israel events.
We applaud Bolton's willingness to go toe to toe with Annan. And given the abuse Bolton suffered last year, we think those who questioned his fitness for this role now owe him an apology.