Twelve years ago Israel had a prime minister who showed that when an American president is determined to freeze Jewish construction in East Jerusalem, even the most right-wing government falls in line.His name: Benjamin Netanyahu. In July 1997 he decided to stop construction at a Jewish site in the heart of the neighborhood Ras al-Amud, and to evacuate the families who moved in. His justification: “The decision serves the unity of Jerusalem, the unity of the people and the continuation of the peace process.”
Since the current Palestinian leadership has renounced violence, it is possible that an American acquiescence to the continued Jewish penetration into Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem will pass peacefully.
However, a substantive change of such magnitude in the U.S. position regarding a national/religious issue that is so explosive would cause the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, among other efforts, to crash and burn.
A precedent of this sort may bury the Arab Peace Initiative and with it normalization of ties with the Muslim world. We must hope that the news that Obama has backtracked on East Jerusalem is merely the wishful thinking of opponents to a compromise that come from the western part of the city.