Haim Ramon has been going around for some time with a proposal for power sharing in Jerusalem, and the sky has not fallen. Ostensibly this is quite an amazing phenomenon; there was a time when the vice premier's idea was heard only among the radical left, somewhere between Yesh Gvul and Gush Shalom. This seems to be a turning point of historic proportions.
The great debate over the future of the territories occupied in the Six-Day War always has been based on agreement that Jerusalem should not be divided. "The city that is compact together" has served the religious-national myth considered to be one of the foundation stones of Zionist existence. Ehud Barak broke the sacred taboo when he secretly agreed to power sharing in Jerusalem, but at the last minute lost his nerve and did not dare give the Palestinians sovereignty over the Temple Mount. A vice premier calling openly for the division of the city - this has never happened.
And it was as if he had not spoken. No one quit the cabinet, the coalition did not even crack, no one went out to demonstrate, nary a bumper sticker was printed. That phenomenon requires an explanation.
Israeli rule in East Jerusalem is visible mainly in a wave of construction for Jews, not in the granting of equal rights to the Arab inhabitants, not in providing equal services to the two parts of the city. Former mayor Ehud Olmert initiated the physical division of the city using a giant concrete wall that leaves some 50,000 Arabs on the other side.
Ramon is quite the cynic. But in the saga of Israelis' attitude on Jerusalem, he deserves at least a footnote: It is not important what political calculation he is making - speaking as vice premier he legitimizes the fact that recognition of the fiction called "the unification of Jerusalem" is not worth it and should disappear into the history books, just like apartheid in South Africa, the bloody conflict in Ireland and the Berlin Wall.
The indifference that greeted Ramon's proposal may stem from the fact that in the 30 years he has been in politics, he has not attained the reputation of a statesman leaving his stamp on Jewish history. He will not be the one to determine Jerusalem's future. Of course, Ramon could be doing for Olmert what Olmert did for Ariel Sharon when he spoke about the withdrawal from Gaza as if it were his idea. Either way, how nice it would be if it were possible to know for certain that the Israeli public had learned to relate to East Jerusalem as it related to the settlements in the Gaza Strip.
Unfortunately, the vice premier's proposal most likely passed without a scandal because most Israelis do not believe the Olmert government can make history. Summer passed, then the holidays, and Ramon spoke. So what. There may be nothing that illustrates more the public's disengagement from the government than the apathy with which his proposal was greeted.
This is also the case regarding the apathy surrounding the talks with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Ahead of the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Partition Plan they are theoretically working on the end of the conflict; this is a great thing. But the president of the Palestinians appears to be only a courteous collaborator. Everyone knows that the agreement must be made with Hamas in Gaza. The current move seems like a false display by three lame ducks: George W. Bush, Abbas and Olmert.
Olmert needs the November summit because after November comes December. According to a report not officially confirmed, the Winograd Committee has overcome all legal obstacles and is getting ready to publish its report in December. Real life will begin again, and we will recall what a wonderful summer we had.
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