To build, or not to build in Ramat Shlomo

 

By JONATHAN WOLFMAN

Every U.S. President since George H.W. Bush in 1988 has lobbied very hard with each successive Israeli government not to build new housing units in Ramat Shlomo because all U.S. presidents have seen that as a deliberate attempt on the part of the Israeli right to complicate/end negotiations. The fact that, for example, a cabinet minister decided to throw this in Vice President Biden’s face when he visited last year (and behind Prime Minister Netanyahu’s back) far from showing just how fundamentally impossible it is to get serious talks going, shows that negotiations may have been closer than some wanted and that it isn’t just some Muslims who do not want a settlement.

We must reject any mythology, religious or political mythology, Jewish or Muslim, that determines at the outset and at the expense of real people, what every detail of future territory must be. We must equally reject any religious culture’s claim to a purity so precious that it simply cannot live next to others.

That has been the increasingly self-immolating, xenophobic nature of that Islam which has held the Near East in an inward-looking, backward-seeking vise-grip for 400 years and which has permeated North Africa and much of Southeast Asia.

It would be one thing were this to cripple old-world Muslims only but it doesn’t. It threatens the basis for international market economies, trade and civil libertarian ideals accepted from the start in Israel, even by Judaism’s fundamentalists, and, ironically, to an extent, by the more future-oriented, more globalist Muslim states.

Critiques aside, here’s an idea for Ramat Shlomo, one not at all for Jews and Muslims who regard one another in every place and at all times as incipient murderers. If you’re one of those, stop reading now.

New apartments-or-no needn’t be the question. Half the apartments could be allotted to Muslims, or, alternatively, a lottery could ensue with an equal number of Muslims and Jews permitted to apply (regardless of the outcome). No one would imagine immediate kumbaya moments. (No one imagined those when the Court ordered school desegregation either but they happened and the South and the Nation’s better for them.

Recall, please, though, the difference between a cynic and a skeptic:

-A cynic, because she believes nothing much good is ever really possible, never tries anything new regardless of the potential benefit – and in the end is a boring person lost to history.

-A skeptic, while wary because she believes everything, good and bad, is possible, eyes the landscape for new ideas and so fearful that she won’t test some out. She creates history.

Is this idea worth testing? Could it do more good than ill?

I can’t know yet; neither can you. Come up with other new ideas. Be a skeptic.