Without peace talks, Israel must leave East Jerusalem alone
Discussions on Jerusalem were postponed to a later stage of the final-status negotiations, but it was never agreed that this interlude be exploited to create facts on the ground.
As the diplomatic process has sunk deeper into hibernation, acts whose sole purpose is to tighten Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem have multiplied. Thus even as the Palestinians have given the Quartet a proposal on security arrangements and permanent borders in the West Bank, Israel is advancing proposals to change the master plans of neighborhoods over the Green Line.
On Tuesday, Nir Hasson reported in Haaretz that Jerusalem's regional planning and building committee had submitted a plan to create a national park near Mount Scopus. At the same time, the National Security Council discussed the King's Garden plan for the slopes below the Old City. Moreover, work began recently on a new interchange as part of a project to link Jerusalem's northeastern neighborhoods to the Western part of the city and give them direct access to Route 443.
All this activity in East Jerusalem is being accompanied by claims that throw sand in the public's eyes. A good example is the claim that the eastern slope of Mount Scopus "has importance from the standpoint of landscape, archaeology and nature." It's hard to believe that the elected officials who are pushing this plan have overlooked the area's political and demographic significance. Expropriating land in that area would limit the development of the Palestinian neighborhoods of Issawiyeh and A-Tur. And strangling these neighborhoods would encourage illegal construction and increase hostility toward Israel.
The King's Garden plan, which entails demolishing 22 houses to create a new tourist attraction, is similarly wrapped in a veil of innocence. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat claims that the plan benefits Palestinian residents because it includes granting permits to 66 illegal buildings in the neighborhood. But Barkat is presumably aware of the tensions in this neighborhood due to the ongoing effort by right-wing organizations to "Judaize" the Old City and its environs. As for the decision to pave the new road in the city's northeast, it was accompanied by the lame excuse that the road will also serve the area's Palestinian residents.
At the Israeli government's request, discussions on Jerusalem have been postponed to a later stage of the final-status negotiations. But at no point was it ever agreed that this interlude should be exploited to create facts on the ground and exacerbate tensions.
Read this article in Hebrew: הניחו למזרח ירושלים