Ex-minister, Former Israeli Officers Propose Plan to Unilaterally Divide Jerusalem

All sides slam a new plan calling to erect a fence and transfer civil control over the capital's Arab neighborhoods to the Palestinian Authority.

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Israel's security barrier runs along the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat. October 26, 2015.
Israel's security barrier runs along the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat. October 26, 2015.Credit: Reuters

Former minister Haim Ramon and the Peace and Security Association intend to present a new and unilateral plan for the division of Jerusalem this week. The plan is scheduled to be launched in a festive ceremony that includes the laying of what is supposed to be the symbolic cornerstone for the new fence that will divide Jerusalem and transfer most of its Arab neighborhoods to the Palestinian Authority.

Even before the plan's official launch, it has drawn heavy criticism from both the Israeli right and left - and the Palestinians too.

The plan, which was written by Col. (res.) Shaul Arieli, is based on the principles of a one-sided separation of most of the Arab neighborhoods of the city and transferring them to the PA with the status of "Area B,"  territory where the PA has full civil control and shares security responsibility with Israel.

The new border under the proposal wold leave the Old City and the "historic basin" - which includes large parts of the neighborhoods of Silwan, the Mount of Olives and other Arab neighborhoods - inside Israeli territory.  The plan does not include removing settlers living inside Palestinian neighborhoods.

The sponsors of the plan speak of the need to protect "Jewish Jerusalem," both demographically and also in security terms. The plan would gradually eliminate the residency rights inside Israel of the Palestinians from East Jerusalem, but they would still be allowed to continue to pass through the border fence and work in western Jerusalem. The crossing points and checkpoints that divide East and western Jerusalem today would remain open permanently, too.

The plan would require the Knesset changing the Basic Law on Jerusalem, which would require a special majority of 61 Knesset members to pass.

Even before the plan's official launch later this week, it has become a target for serious attacks.

Adnan Ghaith, secretary of the Jerusalem branch of the Palestinian Fatah party and the head Tanzim in the city, said the plan will not receive the agreement of any official Palestinian body. If the agreement has "a state next to a state in the 1967 borders, then that is something different. But if it is in such a fashion, without al-Aqsa [mosque] and without Silwan, what does it give?" said Ghaith.

"The fact that the left offers it is even worse, it tells you there is no hope and when there is no hope we have seen what happens. No one can agree to such a thing, whoever agrees will be a collaborator," he added.

Marik Shtern, a researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, who recently wrote a study on Palestinian employment in the city, also rejects the proposal: "The Palestinians in the eastern part of the city view themselves as Jerusalemites and they are part of the urban framework, like Gilo and French Hill. The city of Jerusalem cannot exist today without the Arab population, and the ties woven here over the past 50 years are very hard to sever," said Shtern.

Shtern estimates that at least half of the workforce in East Jerusalem, over 30,000 workers, are employed in the western half of the capital, or elsewhere in Israel. If the new fence makes it difficult for them to get to work, it will create a severe humanitarian crisis in East Jerusalem and a serious shortage of workers in entire industries in the city, such as hotels, industry, transportation, medicine and others, he said.

Ramon rejects the criticism. "To correct historic mistakes is always difficult," he says. "The right objects to it because it wants a [unified] Jerusalem. The left objects because it worries about the Palestinians, and we will worry about what is good for Israel. It was a historic mistake to annex these neighborhoods of the city and we must correct this. The Palestinians who live there are not meant to be Israeli residents. They do not recognize our occupation, and it is also impossible not to recognize and to benefit from it. The basic law will be amended, the map will change and they will return to where they belong - and Jerusalem will be more logical, more Jewish and safer," said Ramon.

The Commanders for Israel's Security organization, a non-partisan group of former senior officials in Mossad, IDF, police and Shin Bet security service, denied it had any involvement in the initiative.