Benjamin Netanyahu Is Already Reconciled to a Divided Jerusalem

When Israel's prime minister says ‘Jerusalem is united forever under Israeli sovereignty,’ he is either clueless or a consummate cynic.

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Israeli troops in the Shoafat refugee camp of East Jerusalem, with separation wall in the background.
Israeli troops in the Shoafat refugee camp of East Jerusalem, with separation wall in the background.Credit: Emil Salman
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

In the history of ridiculous clichés in Israeli politics, there is a special place of honor for “Jerusalem will remain united forever under Israeli sovereignty.” When the prime minister uses those eight words there are only two possibilities: Either he has no idea of what is going on in the capital, or he speaks the words with unfathomable cynicism and contempt toward the public.

In the case of the former option, then for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s information, Jerusalem is not united today.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference in Jerusalem, August 6, 2014.Credit: AP

Jerusalem (contrary to the unfortunate phrasing of former Finance Minister Yair Lapid) is neither an idea nor a metaphorical body for the use of politicians and penny poets. Jerusalem is the legal definition of a municipal area, in which almost a million people live. Its eastern half was annexed in June 1967 to the State of Israel. And this area, for the prime minister’s information, is already divided today with a border fence — the separation barrier.

Five Jerusalem neighborhoods remained on the other side of the fence — the Shoafat refugee camp, the neighborhoods of Ras Khamis, Ras Shehadeh, Hashalom neighborhood and Kafr Akeb — that are homes to tens of thousands, between one-quarter and one-third of all Palestinian residents of the city. They were left in a no-man’s land in which the Israeli authorities, chief among them the municipality and the police, do not set foot. Anarchy reigns, and the only Israelis who enter do so in armored jeeps and wearing full body armor. Even the most basic services are not provided to this area, from regular running water and garbage collection to law enforcement.

Jerusalem is not united and will not be united anytime in the foreseeable future, and this happened on the watch of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The only question remaining is when he will finally decide to tell that to the Israeli public.

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