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Comment by Rhonda Spivak

*special report from Washington

The most interesting thing about  the speech by White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel to the General Assembly of Jewish Federations of North America in Washington on November 10, was  that it appeared that he got  slightly choked up when talking about his personal connection to Israel and his son’s upcoming bar-mitzvah.
Emmanuel said his father, an Israeli who was born in Jerusalem, changed his family’s name to Emmanuel in honour of his father’s brother Emmanuel [Auerbach] who was killed by Arabs in one of the battles. He said that after 1967, his mother went to live in Israel. He also said that later this spring (June I think) he will be having his son’s bar mitzvah at the Western Wall.
This prompted me to wonder who Emmanuel thinks will have sovereignty over the Old City of Jerusalem, when he has his son’s bar-mitzvah there.  If President Obama’s plan  is to have the Old City internationalized in some form or another, does Emmanuel think this will have happened by the time of his son’s bar-mitzvah? [note that Ehud Olmert's plan was to have the Old City administered by Israel,Palestinians, Jordan, Saudia Arabia and the U.S.]
Does Rahm Emmanuel want to be one of the first Jews to have a family function at the wall, when the Old City is not under Israeli sovereignty?  Might it be a dangerous place?
Or is the unstated premise here that Rahm Emmanuel doesn’t really foresee any  change in  the status of  the Old City and Jerusalem, before his son’s bar-mitzvah? The more I think about it, the more I think that the latter is the case.
Then I began to wonder if President Obama will be invited to the Emmanuel bar-mitzvah?   If he is, will he attend?  Or will he send Rahm Emmanuel in his place? (That’s a joke).
If Obama is invited and attends the bar-mitzvah, will that be his first trip to Israel since he was elected?  All questions to ponder.
There is one other thing that I found rather interesting, which were the words used by Michael Gelman, Chairman of the Exec. Committee of the Jewish Federations of North America, after Emmanuel spoke in Washington.
“Thank you Rahm Emmanuel for these very re-assuring words,” Gelman said.
Gelman’s choice of  the word "re-assuring" rather struck me, because it implies that President Obama’s policy towards Israel has  created  doubts or anxiety for Gelman, and thus he needed re-assurance.  If there is no underlying problem here, why would he need re-assurance?
Throughout the entire GA there was no one in the Federation leadership that ever spoke about any doubts he or she had about the Obama administration’s behavior towards Israel.  To the extent that people may have their doubts, I am guessing they were expressed in private, not public. Note that Kenneth Feinberg, the co-chair of the G.A, is on the Obama administration’s pay roll. (see related feature article in this issue “the Pay Czar” for more details).
After Emmanuel spoke, I asked Michael Gelman why he needed re-assurance, and what in Emmanuel’s speech had re-assured him. He answered, “Emmanuel said that there should be peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians without pre-conditions. This re-assured me because I think there has been a lot of confusion about whether the Obama administration has wanted Israel to completely freeze [West Bank] Jewish settlements [including natural growth] as a pre-condition to talks. Emmanuel made it clear that this was not a pre-condition and I am pleased about this.”

Gelman was correct that Emmanuel called for negotiations “without preconditions.”  Emmanuel also said that ”unilateral actions should be avoided”  and that if they were taken they wouldn’t “dictate the outcome” in any event.

These words were seen as being directed at Israel, telling her that unilateral actions such as building in the West Bank or East Jerusalem ought to be avoided.  But, I believe these  comments also  could  apply  to  PA President Salam Fayyad 's plan to  unilaterally declare a Palestinian State in the territories, including Jerusalem, within two years if there is no negotiated agreement that is reached.

If the United States does not back Fayyad’s plan, then the plan will never pass the U.N Security Council and will never receive legitimization by the world.  How Obama will react to Fayyad’s plan, will be one of the most  fateful decisions for the region. (Note: On Nov. 17, the Jerusalem Post reported that Ian Kelly, a State Department Official  said that the U.S. is opposed to any Palestinian plan to declare a state unilaterally along the 1967 borders, outside of  negotiations with Israel.)

In his remarks, Emmanuel also negated the possibility of a “one state solution” [in  the land that is now Israel, the West Bank and Gaza] . He described the one-state solution  as “the false hope that this measure will eventually overwhelm Israel and lead to its demise."

Emmanuel further said, “The fact is that Israel will not let this[a one state solution] happen”, and “President Obama will not let this happen.”
Thus, for those I have met on university campuses in Winnipeg, (particularly at the Canadian Mennonite University) who advocate a “one-state solution,” it’s time for you to head Emmanuel’s words.  A  one-state is an illusion.  Genuine peace building is going to come in the form of a two- state solution, or otherwise, not at all.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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