map source: Jewish Virtual Library

By Larry Gordon

There are, unfortunately, several reasons why the Deal of the Century, as it is being touted by Jared Kushner and the Trump administration, is not going to work the way a great deal of the world would like it to work.

The deal is really a faceoff between creating and building and demolition and destruction. President Trump is a builder and innovator. To date, the Arab hallmark has been mostly about destruction and, to be more specific, about destroying Israel.

The administration is planning on an Arab summit meeting in September at Camp David. This is the site of the historic agreement between Menachem Begin of Israel and Anwar Sadat of Egypt. Going back 40 years, that might have been the last time we saw real leadership exercised in the most responsible way that was historically possible.

Here’s why the plan is not going to work: Even though Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu has orchestrated the summit with the Trump administration, Israel will not be attending so as not to make the Arab representatives uncomfortable.

The anticipated scenario is reminiscent of the diligent efforts of the Obama administration’s secretary of state, John Kerry, and his desire to shepherd or rather force an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority so that President Obama could tout a foreign policy success in an arena of consistent and flagrant failures.

Mr. Kerry visited the region often. But there was a nuanced detail that indicated his laborious efforts would not be successful. Despite the days and late nights he spent with Palestinian leaders in Ramallah, he did not stay overnight in Ramallah, even though it features a number of hotels.

Any peace achievement in this area, if it were to be successful, would at some point require hatching an agreement with Hamas in Gaza. This would have required that the secretary and his staff meet with Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas leaders could not travel to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem for official talks. So Mr. Kerry would have needed to go to Gaza. My point is that any night that Mr. Kerry could have safely stayed overnight in Gaza or Ramallah would have been the best indication that peace was possible.

Mr. Kerry traveled back to Jerusalem every night to stay at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem where he would be safe, secure, and protected. If Mr. Kerry did not feel safe in Gaza or Ramallah, why should the rest of us?

Next month’s summit with Middle East regional leaders at Camp David has similarities. How are we considering moving in the direction of peace if Israel is not participating, ostensibly because it makes Arab leaders uncomfortable? If Israel cannot sit at the table at this advanced juncture with leaders of the Gulf states, Jordan and Egypt, then there is something going on that might be a good thing, but is not conventional peace.

Regardless of whether Israel is at Camp David next month, one other absence is certain, and that is the Palestinians. Arab leaders in the Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been at peace with Israel for years. That is true of Jordan and Egypt, too. There have even been maritime talks between Israel and Lebanon over the last few weeks, despite the dominance of the terrorist group Hezbollah in that country’s government.

The odd folks out of the equation are the Palestinians. These meetings and conferences used to be all about them and their future, a two-state arrangement, their stake in Jerusalem, and so on. Now, however, regional leaders have made them irrelevant and a low priority. There will be peace someday in the Middle East, though it may not include the Palestinians.

This Land Is Our Land

Jerusalem City Councilman Arieh King was in our Five Towns office this week with some fascinating news. King’s group, the Israel Land Fund (ILF), has dedicated itself over the years to finding the original owners of various tracts of land in the capital city by using legal archives and documentation.

Time and again, King has discovered that Arab residents of Jerusalem are living on land that, according to documents on file, is legally owned by Jews.

He recently discovered a large area of empty land in the area of the city known as Beit Zafafa. This area is near the Malcha Mall and the Teddy Kollek Soccer Stadium. The land came to his attention when two young Arab men from the area in southern Jerusalem applied for a permit to build 72 apartments on the land, which totals several hundred dunams.

Upon closer examination, King and his team at the ILF discovered deeds and contracts that show that Jewish families from the United States and Canada bought the land from local Arabs as far back as 1922. In order to track down the families who are the rightful owners of the properties, King combed through Chevra Kadisha records and online genealogical sites in order to find the ancestors and, in some of the cases, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the original owners.

When I met with Arieh on Tuesday, he had just arrived from Toronto where he met with two families that are descendants of landowners in Jerusalem. The next day he said that he had a meeting with relatives of the Diamond family in Boro Park, who are some of the relatives of the people whose names are on the almost century-old documents.

Arieh is trying to identify other families named in the documents, including Richter, Steiner, Zaks, Yoffe and Joseph. He has some leads on a few of these families, but is asking the public to contact him if they have knowledge or information about family members who may have bought property in Jerusalem between 1922 and 1939, the years that appear on the documentation.

Once the families are identified, there will be a long and tedious procedure in the Israeli courts in order to gain recognized rightful ownership of the land. Some of the families formed a corporation whose name is on the ownership contracts: American Binyan HaYeshuv of Palestine.

If you have additional information, reach out to Arieh King at Office@Israellandfund.com to  help reclaim parts of the city of Jerusalem. 

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