Dividing Jerusalem

As long as we live in a painful, sickening reality that includes terrorist attacks, it is impossible to claim sovereignty over East Jerusalem while applying a special set of laws to its Arab inhabitants.

On June 9, 1967, two days after Israel Defense Forces troops reached the Western Wall, Anwar al-Khatib, the Jordanian official responsible for administering the Jerusalem district, was whisked away to the Ambassador Hotel in the eastern part of the city for a meeting with IDF General (res.) Chaim Herzog, who only minutes earlier had been appointed the military governor of the West Bank.

Khatib requested that the Israeli authorities permit some Arab families to relocate across the river to the east bank of the Jordan, where their relatives were waiting. Not only did the Israeli governor agree to the request, he adopted the idea wholesale and undertook a policy of encouraging every East Jerusalemite to take up residency in the Hashemite Kingdom.

To that end, Israel unleashed a public relations campaign and arranged for organized trips, which were designed to spur the Arabs into abandoning the city. Herzog also made sure to compel Khatib to place his signature on a note affirming that the initiative was a Jordanian one.

Success, however, was only half-baked. Most of the Arabs of Jerusalem, whose collective consciousness has been seared by the bitter memories of the Nakba of 1948 and who live by the ethos of attachment to their land, declined to take advantage of the opportunity to move across the river. Those who took the bait came back a few weeks later as a result of international pressure to allow the migrants to return to their homes.

Eighteen days after the Herzog-Khatib meeting, the Knesset approved three laws that gave an official stamp of approval to a government decision to unite Jerusalem and to apply Israeli law to its eastern half. Since then, the state has clumsily tried to reconcile itself to a contradiction, one which stems from its desire to view East Jerusalem as an inseparable part of sovereign Israeli territory despite the saddening reality that tens of thousands of foreigners - Arabs, who in the course of time developed a nationalist identity as Palestinians - inhabit this piece of land. This contradiction became more pronounced, and it was reemphasized in the wake of the bulldozer attack in the city center last week.

On the surface, once the laws of the land were applied to East Jerusalem, the annexed areas began to function as an organ of the state. The set of laws that governs East Jerusalem is identical to that in the western half (as well as the entire country); this varies from the laws in the West Bank.

The overwhelming majority of Arabs in East Jerusalem are not citizens of the state, but they are permanent residents who are entitled to benefits granted to all residents and are obliged to assume their responsibilities toward the state. On the one hand, they receive welfare payments from the National Insurance Institute, and, on the other hand, are punished in the same manner as every other individual who lives in this country and perpetrates a criminal act.

As such, when Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak announced they intend to order the razing of the Sur Baher home belonging to the relatives of terrorist Hussam Duwiyat, who killed three Israeli Jews and injured dozens, they highlight the paradox inherent in Israel's desire to view East Jerusalem as an integral part of the state. Attorney General Menachem Mazuz does the same when he gives the government a green light to exact unnecessary punishment against the Arabs of the city - as does the NII, when it refuses to grant benefits to the perpetrator's family.

A state that annexed the eastern part of Jerusalem is obligated to assume the burden that is a byproduct of its decision. First and foremost, it must apply its laws equally to the annexed territory. In West Jerusalem, the state does not customarily destroy the homes of the families of murderers. Nor does it do so in Holon. In Beit Shemesh, the NII does not revoke benefits from a criminal, no matter how repugnant his crime. In Umm al-Fahm, the authorities are legally forbidden from harassing relatives of a criminal. The justice system denies the state the right to exact collective punishment against its residents. It goes without saying that the legal system and public opinion in this country do not tolerate abuse toward families, even those of murderers, who adhere to their religion's custom of mourning.

And yet, the heart is filled with horror at the sight of the trail of blood that terrorists from East Jerusalem have left behind them. Indeed, there is an absurdity in that the authorities are obligated to show restraint and treat fairly and in accordance with the law the family of a man who violated the laws in such a violent, brutal manner. Yet, whoever prioritizes preserving the unity of Jerusalem, and whoever offers legislation further complicating the possible re-division of the city in the future, must pay the price of his policy. As long as we live in a painful, sickening reality that includes terrorist attacks, it is impossible to claim sovereignty over East Jerusalem while applying a special set of laws to its Arab inhabitants.