Jerusalem: Capital of Jewish Deceit

Alluring and repulsive, spiritual and cynical – Jerusalem is a city of peace without a single corner free of disputes. Never has a city been so reunited, yet so torn apart

Revelers celebrating Jerusalem Day 2016, marking 50 years of the city's reunification, outside Jerusalem's Old City, May 24, 2017.

The last 50 Israeli-Palestinian years have been one of the longest chapters in the history of temporariness. Two peoples separated but mixed; a state-and-a-half that's fenced in to the point of being choked off, but still without a single border. A capital city that has an unbelievable gap between the declarations made about it and its reality. Alluring and repulsive, beautiful and filthy, spiritual and cynical – a city of peace without a single corner free of struggles and disputes. Never has a city been so reunited, yet few are the cities that are so torn apart. It’s all because of the Jerusalem paradox.

Jerusalem is the capital of Jewish deceit. If this wasn't so tragic and fatal, it would be possible to add it to the collection of jokes about the fools of Chelm. The city is the precise focal point at which all the diplomatic formulas that totally contradict each other collide, and move Israel firmly toward political destruction.

Two of Israel’s formulas for action constitute an embarrassing contradiction, in terms of logic: “two states for two peoples,” and “Jerusalem will never be divided.” Ostensibly this seems fine – a positive desire for peace along with great love and patriotism toward the Holy City, our eternal city. So what’s wrong? What’s wrong is that these two trains traveling in opposite directions have already collided, and the two main victims – peace and the city – are dying before our eyes. And we? We’re celebrating.

Whoever is committed to the two-state formula and truly accepts its practical application can’t avoid the understanding that the capital of the second state – Palestine – will also be in Jerusalem. Because unfortunately for them, the Jews don’t have a monopoly on the city’s symbolism. And from this it’s clear that dividing the land between its two peoples marches hand in hand with the formula of dividing Jerusalem into two capitals. A peace agreement on sharing the territory will also apply to dividing Jerusalem as a split-shared area.

On the other hand, the ardent, impassioned formula of a united city that will never be divided completely negates the principle of another capital within its jurisdiction. The immediate significance of “one city” is “one state”: that is, a clear veto on any plan that would divide the land into two states. Because the same political, psychological, religious and ideological sources that prevent the division of this urban monster are the ones that for the same reasons reject division of the rest of the country.

For the past 50 years, official Israel has been doing everything it can to avoid choosing between the two formulas. Everyone – both Labor and Likud – has perfected the necessary verbal and diplomatic acrobatics, in a vain attempt to deceive reality and turn the paradoxical into the logical and acceptable. And we have become so accustomed to this that we don’t even notice the dual, conflicting language of our leaders. At Bar-Ilan University, at the United Nations, and in English, they wrap themselves in proper diplomatic nuance: seekers of peace committed to the two-state vision. But in Hebrew, at the Western Wall, in the party central committee, on Ammunition Hill and on the local Twitter feed – they swear by the name of United Jerusalem, which will remain united for eternity. Over the years the contradiction has grown, making us all look increasingly ridiculous.

The reciprocal relationship between the two formulas, the risks and the chances, are the key to understanding our own and the city’s miserable state. It’s precisely these very days – in which we mark five decades of waste and missed opportunities, obtuseness and lies – that allow us to understand in the clearest way the sick connection between the city’s insanity and the diplomatic despair, as well as the opportunities that await.

The paralysis and fear of decision-making could lead to a solution that wouldn’t be so bad: an urban confederation, a city of all its communities. It would be a city with an overall municipal authority and several sub-authorities. There would be no transportation on Shabbat within the ultra-Orthodox municipality; in the Muslim municipality, the muezzin would call the faithful to prayer five times a day; church bells would ring out in the Christian municipality; and within the municipality for the secular remnants, commercial and entertainment venues would be open on Shabbat, and personal and public transportation would be available to everyone. And most importantly, the latter body will be responsible (at least on Shabbat) for travel in the direction of Tel Aviv.

It would be possible to call this a Ze'ev Jabotinsky city, which will lead to the first Ze'ev Jabotinsky government. The guiding principle was written by the Revisionist Zionist leader long ago: “If, for this part of the country’s population [the Arabs], there will at some point be bad times, then the entire country will bear the burden of the suffering. The Arabs’ strong political position, from a political, economic and cultural perspective, will forever remain the principle condition for the strong and healthy situation of the whole land of Israel.”

If the urban confederation works, then a general arrangement between the Jordan and the Mediterranean could work under the same logic. On the most basic level: a joint and obligatory civil and constitutional infrastructure. On the middle level: governments serving the Israeli community and the Palestinian community (or the Jewish and Arab communities, or any other agreed-upon division). And on the top level: a joint administration for the two peoples. Yes, a joint government with joint power, a space divided and yet shared at the same time.

Today, from the depths of mutual hostility and loathing, such an idea seems impossible. But between us, is the continuation of death and injustice more feasible?

Thus, Jabotinsky’s solution is more recommended today than ever, particularly for those who claim to be following in his footsteps, along the lines of: “In every cabinet in which a Jew will serve as prime minister, the deputy prime minister will be an Arab, and vice versa.” And, “Proportional participation by Jews and Arabs in both obligations and also benefits granted by the state – as a rule, this will apply to parliamentary elections, civil and military service, and budgetary grants.”

As they say in Jerusalem, speedily and in our days, Amen.