JERUSALEM — Despite long odds, peace in the Middle East is now considered achievable thanks largely to a gesture of good faith offered by the Israeli government.
The Israeli housing ministry announced late last week plans for a Palestinian history center to feature in Israel’s new housing settlements in the disputed territories of East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Said a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “The history center will serve as a poignant reminder of the many important contributions made by the Palestinian people.
“Palestinians will be able to gather there and reflect on the dehumanizing circumstances in which they’ve suffered under an occupation that most of the world considers illegal.”
Israel’s blueprints for the development of some 1,400 Jewish housing units were published simultaneously—settlements U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki called “illegitimate” and “not conducive to our efforts to move forward on peace.”
The U.S. has “called on both sides, as you know, many, many times to create a positive atmosphere for negotiations,” in Psaki’s words, “which is why we’re pleased to see that Israel is meeting the Palestinians halfway and offering them 1,400 square feet of space that they can truly call home.”
Admittance to the history center will be heavily restricted for reasons of security, according to Israeli military officials. Their forces will oversee checkpoints outside of the center where “anyone with Palestinian features will be interrogated, patted down, and provided a complimentary 10-page guide to the history center.”
“Israel is strictly honoring all the understandings that were reached to facilitate the current peace talks,” one senior Israeli official told the New York Times. While a freeze of settlement construction remained off the table, Israel has agreed to the release of 26 Palestinian prisoners.
Once freed, the former prisoners would be given “swank jobs and housing within the walls of the history center.” The official noted that the heavily guarded center would “do everything it could to ensure that the former prisoners would never have to leave the compound.”
Netanyahu’s spokesman relayed a Jewish proverb that he said reflected his country’s progressive peace efforts. “Ask about your neighbors, then buy the house—just don’t ever invite your neighbors over.”