East Jerusalem / Israeli Roulette

How do we know Benjamin Netanyahu reads Haaretz? Because if he didn't, he would not know that Sayed Kashua lives in West Jerusalem. But Kashua is an Israeli citizen, conceived and born in the Israeli town of Tira, in the Triangle region.

So what is Netanyahu talking about when he refers to a constant flow of residents, in both directions, between the city's eastern and western parts? Where does he live, and where does he think we live? Have we not been here for the last 42 years, and have we not closely followed the deliberate, systematic effort by official Israeli agencies to take over Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem? To take them over, and push out their regular residents - a kind of ethnic cleansing, with the goal of Judaizing all of Jerusalem and leaving the marketplace empty of Arabs, as in Naomi Shemer's song?

What is Netanyahu talking about when he talks about "the right of every Jew to live anywhere in Jerusalem," as if it were a free city with a free market of voluntary buyers and sellers? In a place where the rights of one people are oppressed, the rights of the other people will also be oppressed. Someday, there will be an agreement, and only then will this mutual right exist.

And what is he talking about, this Netanyahu, when he talks about "private land," which - what can you do? - leaves the government powerless? The truth is known to everyone, including in Washington: Had Ariel Sharon not established a residence in the heart of the Old City, and had Israeli governments not pushed the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva into this area, and had governments not built infrastructure for both and provided security for those who expelled and also inherited - had it not been for all this, not a single Jew would be acting in East Jerusalem as if he owned it.

"Private land." Did not settlers move onto lands registered in the Land Registry in Palestinians' names - yes, every Palestinian also has a name - and build outposts on them? When you really want it, the land suddenly becomes private. And when you really don't want it, it changes its status in the blink of a blind eye.

The excuses given by Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Avigdor Lieberman change in keeping with what is convenient at any given moment: One moment they are stressing "natural growth," the next, they have returned to natural and historic rights. But it is not a natural road that leads to ventures in Jerusalem by American casino moguls, who gamble from afar with our lives. Not a natural road, but the adulterer's road: We demolish and erase and then say, "I have not sinned." America has thus far not sent its emergency rescue forces here to put out the fire, but it has also not spared us all those lunatic Jews who pour oil on the flames.

Just as the settlements on every hill and under every chopped down olive tree were intended from the start to thwart the possibility of an agreement with the Palestinians, the same is true of the new Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem, which have been maliciously thrust like a huge bone down our aching throats. The international community, and many Israelis as well, know the ending without which it will never end: Jerusalem will be divided into two capitals, with Jewish neighborhoods going to the Jews and Arab neighborhoods to the Arabs.

But the gamblers are not interested in an end to the conflict. The Moskowitzes want to continue playing their dice games, playing - always - with fire, and shuffling the cards with their well-known Las Vegas methods: The house wins, and everyone else loses. And Netanyahu is the croupier.