A fine dispute over Jerusalem
Netanyahu and his ministers now have to control their predecessors' extensive damage and lower expectations again.
Had the United States not condemned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's policy on a unified Jerusalem, there would be cause for deep concern. After many years of the Israeli leadership raising the expectations of Palestinians, and the entire world, regarding the city - in utter contradiction to its mandate from the Jewish public - Netanyahu and his ministers now have to control their predecessors' extensive damage and lower expectations again.
The last Israeli administration left behind a destructive policy on Jerusalem. But it isn't easy to extract the lamb from the wolf's jaws, to explain that we grant rights to others on the Temple Mount, not the other way around; that we returned to Jerusalem to settle it with Jews and rebuild all its quarters, internal and external; and that the city has no "outskirts" that may be relinquished, because every Arab outskirt abuts a Jewish outskirt, sometimes only a few meters away.
Our values have become distorted, and must be straightened out. Complete coordination and capitulation to Washington should not be considered the measure of successful relations. Sometimes, as in the Jerusalem issue, a dispute shows the State of Israel is returning to its senses - that its red line will not retreat to the Green Line.
After so many years of crooked values, it will take time to reinternalize that our birthright of Jerusalem - the city of Jewish memory and justice - cannot be questioned. And that Arabs who arrived only in the past few centuries - as historian and former education minister Prof. Ben-Zion Dinur was correct in noting - have every right in the State of Israel, but none at all to the Land of Israel.
Here, therefore, is a mission for Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar: an educational program that teaches every student the story of Jerusalem and the Jewish People. The Palestinians have done their own version of this for years, by rewriting history, taking liberties with historical chronology and de-Judaizing the city. It is a terrible disaster that the world "buys" this narrative, and the time has come to return fire, at home and abroad.
Nonetheless, it is not enough to change consciousness, and actions "on the ground" will have decisive implications. First, the government must decide how to categorize Jewish-owned lands in the city, particularly the northern areas beyond the separation fence. Are they part of Jerusalem, under Israeli sovereignty? Or maybe, according to the de facto status quo, they are under military administration, their land and population torn from the city, with all the accompanying implications?
Second, Israel must encourage Jewish settlement in every section of the Old City, not only the Jewish Quarter, as was the case less than a hundred years ago. The Mapai government of Levi Eshkol and Golda Meir did so with discretion and wisdom, partly because such a move is a reflection of Zionism, and also because they realized this was a key step in preventing the city's partition.
There is no reason that Likud, of all parties, should abstain from doing the same. Current mayor Nir Barkat must receive backing in turning Jerusalem into one of the world's leading tourist destinations, which would only help its residents and economy.
Most important, the oaths of allegiance for the city on Jerusalem Day can be woven into a golden carpet, but if the city is only exalted in words, and not actions, this will be of little value. The city needs tens of thousands of new jobs and accommodations in order to hold onto even some of the 17,000 Jews leaving it every year.