A dangerous separation
The Shin Bet's field coordinators in the Jerusalem region are well acquainted with the alleyways of the village Jabal Mukkaber, which is located only a few dozen to a few hundred meters from the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood.
The Shin Bet's field coordinators in the Jerusalem region are well acquainted with the alleyways of the village Jabal Mukkaber, which is located only a few dozen to a few hundred meters from the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood. Ala Abu Dhaim, who murdered the eight students at Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, did get past them, but in recent years they have foiled many terror attacks that threatened to come out of there and adjacent villages, into the Jewish neighborhoods that abut them.
Anyone who has a feel for the field, as they do, knows that Haim Ramon's populist declaration, about the need to disengage from the "outskirt neighborhood" of Jabal Mukkaber, is irresponsible. A similar "disengagement" in the Judea and Samaria sector dealt a severe blow to the ability to gather intelligence and thwart major terror attacks. That capability was restored only after Israel "reengaged" with the areas from which it had retreated.
The classic example of the severe fallout from a separation of the type Ramon is proposing in Jerusalem is Bethlehem. Like many East Jerusalem resident today, many of Bethlehem's residents did not want to separate from Israel 13 years ago. Elias Freij, Bethlehem's mayor at the time, even took the trouble to convey a message along those lines to then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, but Rabin did not heed it. As the years went by, the extent of terror originating in the city soared, and many of the city's Christians abandoned it.
In Jerusalem, whose Jewish and Arab neighborhoods are currently intertwined and where the distance between the homes of Jews and the homes of Arabs runs from zero to a few hundred meters, maintaining a hold on the territory is even more vital than in Judea and Samaria.
For years now, Jerusalem has been an optimum target for terror organizations, a sort of standing order. This was especially the case during the first four years of the second intifada. Over that period there were 600 terror attacks in the city (of which 30 were suicide bombings), in which 210 people were murdered and thousands injured.
The involvement of Arabs from East Jerusalem and surrounding villages in terrorism increased over the years, mainly in accessory roles. They gathered intelligence, selected potential targets for attacks, exploited their familiarity with the city in which they lived, worked and studied, and guided terrorists to the sites where major attacks were carried out, such as Cafe Moment, and buses in Jerusalem and Haifa.
What greatly reduced the attacks in recent years was Israel's command of intelligence and thwarting capability in the outskirt neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and its surroundings. Hundreds of major terror attacks were prevented thanks to control over those "outskirt neighborhoods."
Truth be told, this term - "outskirt" - is misleading and deceptive. A majority of Jerusalemites are unaware of how close this "outskirt" is to where they live or the fact that the distances involved are within the range of small-arms and machine guns, of which the Palestinians have a plentiful supply. The Palestinians have previously taken advantage of this proximity and weapons, when they fired from Beit Jala on Gilo for several years.
But the story of Jabal Mukkaber and its ilk goes beyond security issues. Many East Jerusalemites are worried about the possibility of being severed from Israel, both for fear of losing the benefits and rights they enjoy as residents, and because of their esteem for Israeli democracy with all its flaws. They don't talk about this much, fearing the long arm of Palestinian terror and the Palestinian Authority, and only a handful, like Zuhir Hamdan, Sur Baher's village leader, have admitted as much in the past. Hamdan, who nearly paid for it with his life, even bravely demanded that a plebiscite be held among Arab residents on the question of moving from Israeli to Palestinian sovereignty.
But Israel does not make things easier for Hamdan and those like him, who are the silent majority in East Jerusalem. For years, it has discriminated against the residents of the eastern part of the city, regarding the level of infrastructure and services, and it is trying to have it both ways: to come off as patron and sovereign, while also shirking elementary obligations entailed by that pretention.
The people who rioted at Jabal Mukkaber also bolster those in favor of a division. The demand to demolish the terrorist Abu Dhaim's house is justified, but rampaging through the village is not only a crime, but also stupid, which plays into the hands of the advocates for separation. Israel has plenty of good reasons, not just security ones, to preserve a unified Jerusalem, but it must keep in mind that the unification does not apply only to terrority, but also to people.