Monday, November 15, 2010

Jerusalem Must Be Divided

Even in Jerusalem, lies that are repeated too often do not become true. The truth has been and remains: either Jerusalem will become the capital of two peoples or Israel will become the state of two peoples.

By Akiva Eldar
This Comment was published in Haaretz on 15/11/2010

President Barack Obama does not hand out U.S. graces at half price, for example a temporary freeze in settlement construction. In order to receive the generous package of American incentives put before him, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is required to hand over a list of Jewish settlements that will be wiped off the map. This list must include Hebron and Shiloh, the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea, and also East Jerusalem.

On the map hanging in Netanyahu's office, such broad swaths of territory are labeled "Jerusalem," and on other maps around the world they are noted as "occupied territories." No country recognizes the annexation of 70 square kilometers of West Bank territory into the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem (whose area was 6.4 square kilometers under Jordanian rule ).

Opposing a withdrawal from East Jerusalem will no doubt lead to a failure in the negotiations and turning our back on a two-state solution.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak is credited with making the first attempt to break the taboo over the political division of Jerusalem (in every other way Jerusalem has remained divided ). Ehud Olmert followed in his footsteps and drew a line between the Jewish and Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.

Opinion polls have shown that the Jewish-Israeli public began shaking off false cliches that have been used to cover up the failure to do anything about the poorest city in Israel. Many have grown accustomed to the idea that they will have to give up on the Shuafat refugee camp and a quarter million Palestinians. Since the dispute broke over the settlement freeze, hardly a day has gone by without Netanyahu or his spokesmen issuing another legend glorifying the myth of "the eternal capital that will never be divided."

Netanyahu: "Israel sees no relationship between the peace process and the policy of planning and construction in Jerusalem, which has not changed for 40 years... Construction in Jerusalem will never disrupt the peace process."

The Facts: Following Netanyahu's decision in early 1997 (when he first served as prime minister ) to build the neighborhood of Har Homa in East Jerusalem, the Arab League held a special emergency session. Secretary General Ismat Abdel Magid condemned the "policy of Judaizing Jerusalem, which aims to create facts on the ground on the eve of negotiations for a permanent settlement." Jordan's King Hussein dispatched a sharply worded message to Netanyahu, warning that the plan would lead to an outburst of emotions. Egypt expressed concern about the damage the project would inflict on the peace process. U.S. President Bill Clinton promised Palestinian Authority head Yasser Arafat that he would press Netanyahu to freeze the plans. But the Israeli leader rejected all appeals and Hamas won another victory against the peace process.

Netanyahu: "Jerusalem is united, the capital of the Jewish people and its sovereignty is incontrovertible."

The Facts: According to the road map, approved in May 2003 by the Sharon government (and in which Netanyahu served as a senior minister ), the permanent agreement that was meant to be signed in 2005 would include "an agreed, just, fair, and realistic solution to the refugee issue, and a negotiated resolution on the status of Jerusalem." It also said that in the first phase the government of Israel would reopen the Palestinian trade office and other Palestinian institutions closed in East Jerusalem. Moreover, two Israeli prime ministers have already set the precedent that Israel's sovereignty over East Jerusalem is disputed.

Netanyahu: "All Jerusalem residents can acquire homes in every part of the city."

The Facts: There is a clause in the Israel Lands Administration leasing agreements that enables them to void the purchase of a home if the buyer is not an Israeli citizen or not entitled to make aliyah on the basis of the Right of Return (in other words, is not a Jew ). An investigative report published by Nir Hasson on November 5 ("State gave East Jerusalem lands to rightist groups without tenders" ), exposed the symbiotic relationship between the government and elements on the right, who aim to push the Arabs out of East Jerusalem. The Netanyahu government is the first to have given over to the Elad NGO the City of David national park, without a tender. One of the directors of the NGO has said in the past that the group's aim is "to take hold of areas of East Jerusalem in order to create unalterable conditions in the Holy Basin around the Old City."

Even in Jerusalem, lies that are repeated too often do not become true. The truth has been and remains: either Jerusalem will become the capital of two peoples or Israel will become the state of two peoples.

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