Israeli settlers enjoy a privilege that East Jerusalem's Palestinians don't have: getting back property that was abandoned during the 1948 War of Independence.
Representatives of American-Jewish businessman Irving Moskowitz on Monday took over a room in the home of the Hamdallah family in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud. As in previous cases, the emissaries of Moskowitz, whose foundation raises funds for Jewish housing projects in Arab neighborhoods, enjoy a privilege that East Jerusalem's Palestinians don't have: to get back property that was abandoned during the 1948 War of Independence.
The 15-square-meter room provides yet another small brick of evidence to boost the theory of irreversibility that is gaining strength in the public discourse. The theory holds that it is no longer possible to seriously discuss dividing the land or evacuating the settlements, since the government's decisions, the political stalemate and the resolve of the settlers have already determined that there will be a one-state, binational solution. Just the nature of that state - whether it will more closely resemble a federation or apartheid - has yet to be determined.
Anyone who wants to see what irreversibility looks like should head to Jerusalem. The Arab residents of East Jerusalem have long continued to see themselves as part of the Palestinian community of the West Bank, even though they are officially Israeli residents and are entitled to vote in municipal (but not national ) elections. But that appears to be starting to change.
Take the East Jerusalem Palestinians who aspire to an "Israeli" education. They no longer wish to make do with Palestinian matriculation certificates that keep them out of Israeli jobs, and they don't want to wait in line at a roadblock to attend Palestinian institutes of higher learning. They would prefer to earn an Israeli matriculation certificate and attend the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The separation fence, along with the discrimination faced by graduates of Palestinian educational institutions, has pushed these youth westward. This process comes on the heels of additional signs of the "Israelization" of Jerusalem's Palestinian population. There has been a drop in fertility rates among East Jerusalem families and a rise in the participation of women in the work force; Palestinian families have been moving into predominantly Jewish neighborhoods and, no less important, can increasingly be found in parts of West Jerusalem that have long been considered Jewish destinations, like Sacher Park, Malcha Mall and Jaffa Street.
Surveys also point to an increased Palestinian interest in an Israeli-controlled Jerusalem. To the credit of Mayor Nir Barkat, the surveys also show greater satisfaction with municipal services in East Jerusalem. It seems that even violence and racist attacks like last month's severe beating of an Arab youth and Saturday's stoning of Arab vehicles in the Shuafat neighborhood have not affected the encouraging process of the city's two populations' drawing closer to one another.
Arab observers offer varying interpretations of these changes. One theory states that Palestinian East Jerusalemites are undergoing a process of Israelization and integration similar to that which the Israeli Arabs underwent after the 1950s. Others see the current behavior as a survival tactic, a result of political apathy on the part of a young generation merely looking for a way to make it under occupation. And there is also talk of the creation of a new kind of Palestinian identity that is distinct from that of Palestinians who live in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, as well as from that of the Israeli Arabs.
If the theory of Israelization is correct, the next step for Arabs living in East Jerusalem should be immersion in local politics. So far, they have largely refused to vote in Israeli municipal elections, as a way of making a statement about their distinct identity. Their lack of governmental representation has made it easier for the city, and the country as a whole, to discriminate against them when it comes to apportioning slices of the budget.
For a number of years now, representatives of Jerusalem's Palestinian population have been saying the time has come to break the taboo on voting. If there is a decision of this kind and it is accepted by the public, it will be a tremendous leap forward in the direction of a binational state.
A united Palestinian ticket (if there were to be one ) could, based on population data, win between 10 and 13 of the 31 seats on the city council. There are even some pundits who think it is possible, even if unlikely, that as long as the Jewish vote continues to be split along religious lines and the city's Arabs succeed in remaining united enough to field only one ticket, the next mayor of the Israeli capital could be a Palestinian from East Jerusalem.
In that case, Irving Moskowitz would have gotten what he and his followers have been asking for, even if not quite what they actually had in mind: the united home of the Hamdallah family, a united Jerusalem and a united Land of Israel.