Welcome to a divided Jerusalem
Tuesday's bulldozer attack highlights for Obama the deep gap that separates his bombastic statement about a supposedly united Jerusalem.
It is doubtful that Ghassan Abu-Tir from Umm Touba in East Jerusalem timed his attack to coincide with presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's short visit to Israel's capital. And it's hard to know whether the bulldozer terrorist chose to carry out his attack several meters from Jerusalem's Liberty Bell, which gives its name to the large garden overlooking the walls of the Old City and the separation fence. Either way, the attack highlights for Obama the deep gap that separates his bombastic statement about a supposedly united Jerusalem, and the sad reality that exists in a divided city.
It is highly advisable for Obama's advisers to direct his attention to the statements made by Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin following the attack. He warned that if we do not deal with the vacuum in governance, Jerusalem will become a "severe problem." And how does Diskin propose to deal with this vacuum? He is proposing to "destroy the homes of terrorists in order to preserve deterrence."
The candidate should ask his hosts about how this vacuum was created, and if there are no better ways to fill it. Diplomats at the American consulate will be glad to tell him about the growing love for Israel in Arab neighborhoods where settler organizations are increasingly taking them over with the encouragement of state authorities.
Several days prior to departing on his trip to the Middle East, Obama made it clear that in his statements two months ago at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, in which he expressed opposition to the division of Jerusalem, he was referring only to the return of the wire fences that divided the city until June 1967. One can conclude from this that the leading presidential candidate understands that no permanent-status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is possible if it satisfies the desire of only one side for Jerusalem real estate, especially the religious and historic sites.
However, by the time the next U.S. president enters the White House, there will be nearly nothing left to divide. The Israeli effort to Judaize Jerusalem through legislation, administrative restrictions, a separation fence, the appropriation of land and the abuse of the Palestinian population has transformed Jerusalem into a binational city.
It can be hoped that Obama will not take seriously the stories about harmony between Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem. He should not buy into the claim that since the three most recent attacks in the capital were carried out by individuals with no apparent connection to established terror groups, this does not reflect negative trends among the local population. Someone needs to tell him that Professor Sari Nusseibeh, one of the moderate leaders of the Palestinian elite, called on the European Union this week to halt economic aid to the Palestinian Authority. Nusseibeh argued that the existence of the PA perpetuates Israeli occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
It is not only the PA that is losing control over East Jerusalem; Hamas is not interested in violating the tahadiyeh [cease-fire] at this time. The rage of the bulldozer drivers suggests a breakdown in Palestinian leadership. One man, then another, and another, and another, wake up one morning and, just like that, go into the street to attack yeshiva boys, run over children under the wheels of a bulldozer, shoot at Border Police officers. As in Iraq, this is the sort of fertile ground where Al-Qaida weeds grow. But this ground is in the heart of Israel's capital - "united" Jerusalem and the Arab villages to its north.
Moreover, Jewish terrorists flourish next to them. There is no better definition for the Jewish thugs that abuse Palestinian civilians just about every day, in an effort to push them out of East Jerusalem and the Hebron Hills. Fanatical minorities on both sides are dragging two nations behind them into the abyss, as in Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish's description of two guys who fall together into a pit and continue to fight even when they reach the bottom.
A Jerusalem in conflict is an excellent vantage point over the territory between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. If the next U.S. president adopts his predecessor's policy of endless talk and conferences, the entire State of Israel will resemble its capital in a few years. If Obama is a friend of Israel, he will have to rapidly set aside his pledge about Jerusalem, a pledge that belongs in campaign rallies and synagogues. An American president who protects Israel, who really and honestly has the best interests of the Jewish state at heart, will not rest until we celebrate the division of Jerusalem into two capitals, and the division of the country into two states.