Israel’s plans for cutting up Jerusalem

Israel’s plans for Jerusalem will create a large Jewish city but will have harsh consequences for the Palestinians, on both sides of the barrier

IN THE twilight of a Bethlehem evening, Jerusalem shimmers on a distant hilltop like the Wizard of Oz’s Emerald City, its floodlit walls giving it a surrealist glow. Except that these are not the fortifications of ancient Jerusalem as seen above [*], but the appropriately named Har Homa (Wall Mountain), one of the new Israeli settlements that now ring the city.

After millennia of violent conquest and reconquest, Jerusalem, centre of pilgrimage, crucible of history and the world’s oldest international melting-pot, is changing hands once more, but with a slow and quiet finality. Israel redrew the municipal boundary after the 1967 war to enclose some of the West Bank land that it had occupied, a de facto (though not internationally recognised) annexation.

Settlements like Har Homa gradually encroached on the empty spaces. In 2002, as the second intifada raged, and central Jerusalem took the brunt of suicide bombings, Israel started building the West Bank barrier or wall, supposedly to keep out Palestinian bombers. But its route, enclosing Palestinian as well as Jewish neighbourhoods of Jerusalem (see map), suggested another purpose too.

Before Israel’s election last month, Ehud Olmert, the acting prime minister, outlined his plan to do unilaterally what years of peace talks had failed to achieve: separate Israelis from Palestinians. Most of the smaller West Bank settlements would be removed, their residents brought over to the Israeli side of the barrier. A few days later, Otniel Schneller, a settler leader and member of Mr Olmert’s Kadima party, publicly listed the Palestinian parts of Jerusalem that might stay on the West Bank side. Right-wingers accused Kadima of dividing the Jewish capital, but in fact all but two of the areas he mentioned —At-Tur and Az-Zaayem— were already on the West Bank side of the planned route of the barrier. The talk among politicians, said an article in Haaretz last month, is of “a strong, large, Jewish Jerusalem”.

In Mr Schneller’s vision, the bits Israel does not want can serve as the capital of an eventual Palestinian state. But they are just fragments of what was once not only the Palestinians’ cultural and religious centre, but also the hub of the West Bank’s central economic zone. The concrete-block barrier, when finished, will cut right through Palestinian Jerusalem, severing it from its hinterland in the West Bank.

The Old City and its holy sites, the stumbling-block of countless peace negotiations, will be put finally out of bounds to all but the couple of hundred thousand Palestinians living in Jerusalem, and the lucky few others who can get visiting permits. Moreover, the wall is just one part of a gradual and complex process of Israeli takeover.

East (Arab) and West (Jewish) Jerusalem functioned as two cities between 1948 and 1967, when the east was under Jordanian occupation. After 1967, Palestinians living within the expanded Jerusalem got blue Israeli identity cards. These give them the right to move freely within Israel, collect social benefits and vote in municipal elections. They do not bestow citizenship.

Box them in

Yet Jerusalem is still essentially two cities—not just in population and economic ties, but also in municipal policy. In a recent book (“Discrimination in the Heart of the Holy City”, International Peace and Co-operation Centre, Jerusalem, 2006), Meir Margalit, an Israeli peace activist and former city councillor, has detailed the differences. Arab Jerusalemites, now about 33% of the city’s residents, get just 12% of its welfare budget, even though their poverty rate is more than double that of Jewish residents. They get 15% of the education budget, 8% of engineering services, just 1.2% of the culture and art, and so on. Overall, their share of the services’ budget is under 12%, meaning a four-to-one difference in spending per person between Jews and Palestinians. In countless other things, from the number of garbage containers on the streets to the employment rates at city hall, there is a massive disparity in favour of the city’s Jews.

Arab Jerusalemites share some blame for their disenfranchisement. They tend to boycott local elections in protest at the occupation, so that the city council is now dominated by ultra-Orthodox Jews. But the bias in policies is too blatant and too long-standing to be down to that alone.

There is a similar bias in the property market. Getting building permits, always hard and expensive for Arab Jerusalemites, has got still tougher. This is partly because a lot of East Jerusalem has been zoned as non-construction land, while other chunks have been allocated for settlements; partly because the Palestinians’ land records are not always clear; and partly because the requirements for permits have got even more stringent than they were already.

Some people therefore build illegally to accommodate growing families. But even then, there is discrimination in enforcement. Inspectors recorded three to four times as many infractions of building regulations in West as in East Jerusalem in 2004 and 2005, but in the west charges are much less likely to be brought, and in the east far more houses are demolished.

The same tough enforcement is rarely meted out in settlements like Har Homa and Pisgat Zeev, both built after the start of the Oslo peace process in 1993, which have filled in the gaps between Palestinian districts, constricting their growth. The final boxing-in will be done by building thousands of houses in the currently empty zone known as E-1, east of the city, to form a Jewish swathe joining Jerusalem to the settlement of Maale Adumim.

Other settlements stake out absurd claims for Jerusalem’s new boundaries. Tel Zion, an ultra-Orthodox settlement on an isolated hilltop near Ramallah, describes itself as “part of North Jerusalem”. Travellers heading eastwards from Pisgat Zeev see a billboard advertising Anatot, still just a small gaggle of buildings lost in the desert a few kilometres farther on, as the “best deal in Jerusalem”. Both Tel Zion and Anatot will be outside the barrier. Yet in both, building continues apace.

Squeeze them out

Because of the expense and difficulty, some Arab Jerusalemites have left for villages on the outskirts, or for Ramallah or Bethlehem. That makes their homes targets for a form of settlement more subtle than Har Homa. Religious Zionist organisations, such as the El Ad City of David Foundation and Ateret Cohanim, want to recreate the Jewish communities that used to exist in and near the Old City. In a place with so long and multi-layered a past, making a historical claim to land is merely a matter of going back the right distance in time. Such bodies specialise in buying properties from Arab Jerusalemites, sometimes through middlemen so the owners do not know who the real customers are, and selling it on to fervent Zionists. Arab neighbourhoods like Silwan (where the biblical City of David stood) are now dotted with fenced Jewish compounds.

In the late 1990s, when Israel briefly threatened to take away blue ID cards from anyone who could not demonstrate that their “centre of life” was in Jerusalem, many Arab Jerusalemites rushed back. The policy was then revoked, but the fear that it might be renewed as the barrier takes shape has made more people return. That has increased the pressure on space and services in the already run-down eastern city, and pushed up property prices.

There will be other consequences as the barrier is completed, writes Yisrael Kimchi of the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies (JIIS) in a recent report (in Hebrew) called “The Security Fence in Jerusalem: Consequences for the City and its Inhabitants”. Jerusalem is already one of Israel’s poorest cities because both Palestinians and ultra-Orthodox Jews, two groups of which the city has plenty, tend to have large families and be low-paid or unemployed. Overcrowding and rising poverty in East Jerusalem will add strain to the budget. And with them will come higher crime rates and greater friction at the seams between Jewish and Arab areas.

To escape such conditions, better-off East Jerusalemites and those from districts like the Shuafat refugee camp, who hold blue IDs and are going to be left on the Israeli side of the barrier, are already moving to Jewish neighbourhoods—among them, ironically, settlements like Pisgat Zeev. A paradoxical result of walling off a strong, large, Jewish Jerusalem from the Palestinians is to make it more Palestinian.

Fence them off

In the easternmost parts of the city, where the barrier cuts between the Mount of Olives (inside) and Abu Dis (outside), running right through residential neighbourhoods, a strange sight presents itself. The great concrete wall leaks people. In the morning, they squeeze through gaps between the blocks and existing buildings, helping each other to negotiate piles of rubble and loops of barbed wire. In the evening they are sucked back in. For thousands, this is the daily commute.

Most of them are blue ID holders who prefer some discomfort to a long detour to the nearest official crossing point. One way or the other, some 60,000 people are thought to cross each day in each direction. While the wall is still incomplete, the soldiers often tolerate their infractions.

But according to a survey by the JIIS, a wide swathe of West Bank Palestinians without blue IDs are also in East Jerusalem’s catchment area. For it is (or it was until recently) their main place of work or study, of shopping and recreation. An unknown number—some say 40,000—also live there illegally. Cutting them off from Jerusalem not only complicates their lives and splits up families. It takes away business from Jerusalem, impoverishing it further. And it creates joblessness in Ramallah, Bethlehem and the surroundings, adding to the severe depression of the West Bank’s economy.

A series of industrial estates that have gone up around the edge of Jerusalem and in the West Bank could help. Ezri Levi, head of the Jerusalem Development Authority, says that places like the Atarot industrial estate, located just by the checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah, are intended partly to create jobs for those West Bankers who can get permits to work there, which should, he argues, “reduce the tensions between the two populations”. But Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, a pressure group, points out that the estates also allow Israel to maintain its economic dominion: Israeli firms can compete with West Bank firms for cheap labour, yet the Palestinian firms cannot compete with the Israeli ones for custom.

Before the barrier began to go up, the intifada had done its worst to the tourist industry on which both Jerusalem and Bethlehem thrive. Though more than a year of relative calm (thanks less to the barrier than to a ceasefire by the militants) has brought an upturn, tourists and pilgrims are still reluctant to stay the night in Bethlehem, on the West Bank side of the barrier, so the city’s hotel business is collapsing.

The cruelly winding wall

If there has to be a barrier — and Israel is not going to abandon it so long as a hostile Hamas remains in control of the Palestinian Authority — how could it create less damage? There are no easy answers. The JIIS outlines a number of possible routes, each with pros and cons. Following the pre-1967 border would mean leaving settlements with over 200,000 people, which the wall is supposed to protect, outside it. Drawing it along demographic lines—separating Jews from Palestinians—would preserve a sensible economic division, but nobody wants a new Berlin Wall down the middle of the city, and it would mean depriving 230,000 blue ID holders of at least some benefits. Following the municipal boundary exactly would still drive in the economic wedge that the current route does. Enclosing everybody, Arab or Jewish, who lives in Jerusalem’s catchment area would take a huge bite out of the West Bank.

What may matter more than the barrier’s route, says Maya Khoshen, a researcher at the JIIS, are the arrangements: the economic ties between Israel and the West Bank, Israel’s readiness to grant permits to cross the barrier, the number of available crossing-points, and how efficiently and civilly they are run.

If the barrier really is just for security, Israel could take measures to reduce its economic impact. It could improve the conditions for Palestinian Jerusalemites and it could stop the incessant encroachment of Jewish neighbourhoods into Palestinian areas. But so far its main concern seems to be to ensure that this conquest of Jerusalem be the last one.

The heart of holy war

Apr 12th 2006
From The Economist print edition

A God-given muddle that God alone may be able to sort out

THINK of Jerusalem as a holy place, and at least two images spring to mind. One is the towering slab of yellow-white, pockmarked stone, at the foot of which Hebrew prayers are softly uttered. The other is the dazzling golden dome that commands the sky-line. These images are different views of the same structure: the western wall, a focal point for Jewish prayer and pilgrimage, is one of the supports for the elevated stone platform that is known to Jews as Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary.

Most Jews revere the mount as the generally accepted site of the first and second temples which were seen as unique points of encounter between man and God (though their exact position is disputed). The Dome of the Rock, and al-Aqsa mosque at the southern end of the platform, affirm Jerusalem as al-Quds, the holy place which Muslims rank third in sanctity after Mecca and Medina because of the night journey to heaven Muhammad is believed to have made from the mount. In the tradition of Christians, most of whom celebrate Easter this week, the mount is where Pontius Pilate sat in judgment over a man who dared to call himself—not a building—the locus of divinity on earth.

If some prize existed for the most explosive piece of real estate in the world, this 35-acre platform would surely win. The uneasy peace that prevails there at the moment rests on the status quo that was enforced by Israel when its army took control of east Jerusalem in 1967.

The platform and its Muslim holy places are under the custody of an Islamic waqf, or religious foundation, while Israel is responsible for security and access. No organised Jewish prayer is allowed on the platform; this ban is underpinned by a rabbinic ruling that Jews should avoid going to the mount for fear of straying into the former site of the “holy of holies”—the most sacred part of the temple—in an impure state.

Many religious Jews and pious Muslims grumble over the present regime. Muslims are resentful when the Israeli authorities, at times of high tension, impose restrictions on access, for example by keeping out young men. And there are half a dozen small but vocal Jewish groups who demand, at a minimum, the right to pray on the platform—and in some cases dream of replacing the Muslim places of worship with a third temple, ready to greet the Messiah.

But the tensions caused by the current regime are minor compared with the fury that could follow any attempt to settle the platform’s future for good. In the four decades since Israel took control, religious arguments have intensified. Among Muslims everywhere, al-Aqsa mosque has gained prominence as a symbol. The Jews who long to build a third temple have won allies among some American evangelical Christians. Palestinian Muslims are less willing than before to acknowledge the site’s Jewish antecedents, while Jews have retorted that Muslims care about Jerusalem only when its political status is in dispute.

In 2000, when the Clinton administration made the last serious attempt at an overall Israeli-Palestinian settlement, proposals for dividing the mount (for example, by giving the Palestinians the platform’s surface, while leaving Israel everything beneath, including the wall) triggered howls of rage from both sides. Neither Israelis nor Palestinians could bear to give up any part of the structure.

It has since been argued that because partition will never be accepted, the two sides must either agree to disagree and focus on practical matters—or else agree that in such a holy place, no human power can hold sway, so it should be subject only to the sovereignty of God. Nobody has defined what this proposal (first floated by the late King Hussein of Jordan) would mean in practice. It implies, perhaps, that the mount be denationalised, with international guarantees ensuring freedom of worship for all. But first the children of Abraham have to set aside their nationalistic ambitions.

JERUSALEM: THE KEY TO PEACE [Editorial]

Apr 12th 2006


Israel is partitioning the self-declared capital that it “reunited” in 1967

CITIES with walls in their hearts are never happy places. Jerusalem is again becoming one of these. From the war of 1948 till the war of 1967, the armistice line between Israel and Jordan ran through Jerusalem, dividing the Jewish west from the Arab east. After capturing Jerusalem in 1967, Israel said the reunited city would be its eternal capital.

Now the concrete and barbed wire are back. Before long, the “security barrier” Israel is building in and round the occupied West Bank will bisect its own capital. But as our special report[1] explains, the new wall does not follow the old border: it swallows into Israel both the new Jewish suburbs Israel built in east Jerusalem after 1967 and most of the Arab city. When the wall is finished, and if its gates are closed, Arab Jerusalem will then be cut off from its hinterland in the West Bank.

Jerusalem is both a problem in its own right and a parable for the wider conflict. It is a problem in its own right because Arabs and Jews have found no way either to share or divide it. In Jerusalem God and history have made sharing bitterly hard. This is a city in which religions as well as nationalisms collide. The Temple Mount, which Jews call their holiest place, is the very same place Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary, from which Muhammad ascended by a golden ladder to heaven.

And although the world has invented a multitude of peace plans, none has stuck. The United Nations’ stillborn partition plan of 1947 said the city should be internationalised. But in 1948 Israel and Jordan preferred to keep the parts they grabbed in war. Just over five years ago, Bill Clinton sketched out in his “parameters” a plan to divide the city. Instead came a new sort of war, in the shape of the Palestinian INTIFADA.

THE PROBLEM

There will be no peace in Palestine until the problem of Jerusalem is solved. Together with the fate of the Palestinian refugees of 1948, it is rightly called the heart of the conflict. But it is a heart shared by conjoined twins. Both Israel and Palestine say that they cannot live without it. So any operation designed to separate Israel from the Palestinians must be exceptionally sensitive and delicate. Worse, it must be performed from the outset in the knowledge that complete separation is out of the question. In Jerusalem at least, Israel and Palestine are doomed to remain perpetually entwined.

In the nearly 40 years since 1967, sensitivity and delicacy have not been Israel’s watchwords in Jerusalem. As it happens, most orthodox Jews subscribe to a dogma that forbids Jewish access to the Temple Mount until the day of redemption. This has helped Israel leave the running of the Noble Sanctuary and its mosques in Muslim hands. But in Jerusalem as a whole Israel’s policy has been to entrench its control and create facts that cannot be reversed. This has entailed reshaping the physical and demographic geography of the city, settling Jews on the Arab side of the pre-1967 border and creating vast Jewish neighbourhoods to the north, east and south.

On one level, the policy has worked. The huge physical changes render it impossible to redivide the city along the pre-1967 boundary. But on many other levels, the policy has failed. The rest of the world, including the United Nations and the United States, says still that Israel’s annexation of the city, and the settling of Jews across the old border, are illegal. Moreover, in spite of sometimes ruthless Israeli efforts to turf Arabs out of their homes, demography has defied expectations. Jews have formed a majority in Jerusalem since the late 19th century. Since 1967, however, this has declined, from 74% of the reunited city in 1967 to about 67%. And for all Israel’s declarations, the city has never been “reunited” in spirit. Its Palestinian residents refuse to vote in municipal elections and insist on their future as part of an independent Palestine.

THE PARABLE

Jerusalem is a microcosm. Israel has settled Jews in much of the West Bank, but these settlements are illegal too. As in Jerusalem, demography has undone the dream of a Greater Israel. Israel’s incoming government acknowledges that it must fall back to shorter borders and let an independent Palestine arise behind it. But, as in Jerusalem, the old pre-1967 border has been largely erased. And the chances of negotiating a new one, now that the obdurate Islamists of Hamas have replaced the impossible Yasser Arafat, are remote. Hence the appeal of the big idea that Israelis have come to see as the next-best thing: unilateral withdrawal to borders of their own choosing. In essence, this entails building a security barrier to keep out suicide bombers, evacuating the settlements on the far side of the barrier, hunkering down and hoping for the best.

As a second-best, unilateralism has merits. By going it alone, Israel left Gaza. If Israel now evacuates more Jewish settlements in the West Bank, so much better for the prospects of an eventual Palestinian state. But even if it is better than nothing, this is no substitute for a negotiated peace.

Again, Jerusalem shows why. Israel’s barrier is not just for security. It is also a land grab: an attempt to map out preferred borders. That is why, in the case of Jerusalem, the barrier ignores demography and swallows up east Jerusalem. This follows the annexation border but traps on the Israeli side hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who will be cut off from their brethren in the West Bank and may well be tempted in any new INTIFADA to help or become suicide bombers.

Israel does not bear sole responsibility for the current impasse. The crazy human geography of Jerusalem and the West Bank has been created by more than half a century of missed opportunities on both sides, in which the Arab refusal to come to terms with Jewish statehood has played its part. Historians will argue uselessly till the end of days over which side deserves more blame. What is clear is that by redividing Jerusalem in the way it is about to, Israel is making things worse. No peace is possible unless the city remains accessible, from both its east and west. At the very least, during this period of relative calm, Israel must keep its barrier as open as possible.

Sealing in and cutting off the Palestinians of Jerusalem will only make another descent into violence more likely.

Ref: the economist

4 Responses

  1. The goyim of europe and other parts need to mind their own business. Internal domestic affairs are no more of their business than the internal affairs of goyish states to Israel. Alas these self righteous goyim, they remind me of the behavior of dogs, they are always putting their noses in other peoples butts.

  2. how about show us the maps of europe over the centuries as a comparison. europeans never experienced a border dispute … NOT.

  3. Border dispute?!

    *hehehe*

    Why not dare to call it what it is!
    Annexation.
    Illegal occupation.
    Approriation.
    Ethnic cleansing…

    Who is this goyish that you keep referring to?
    It´s not the european zionist lovers that have feed, create and supported Israel´s illegal activites and tresspassing?

    No you are not tiresome “Moshe mush”.
    Just very pathetic in your singlemindness…

    : a

  4. . They’re not going to bursa escort bayan sell as many products, and you’re probably going to look for a different optio

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