Make East Jerusalem the Capital of Palestine

Twenty steps that will reverse the situation – and be far less painful than the alternative.

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The separation barrier near the Palestinian town Anata, near East Jerusalem.
The separation barrier near the Palestinian town Anata, near East Jerusalem.Credit: Emil Salman

Israel is like the miser who gradually reduced the fodder he fed his horse. It has perfected the policy of divide, crumble and conquer that it implemented against the Palestinians and did even better when it cut off the capital – East Jerusalem – from its people. Like that miser, Israel thought this would work and earn it a place in the Guinness Book of colonial successes.

But the horse died and Jerusalem’s Palestinians are rebelling. The miser is shocked. How did the horse die just as it was getting used to not eating? Many Israelis are reeling. Where did this violence come from?

Official spokesmen have succeeded in confusing public opinion. “The Palestinians in East Jerusalem don’t want to live under the Palestinian Authority, a sign that our rule is good for them,” they said. “They want the National Insurance payments and health insurance,” those in the know boasted to journalists. Those in the know, of course, never add that Israel bears direct criminal responsibility for the impoverishment of the Palestinians in the annexed city and for turning them into welfare cases.

“The Palestinians in Jerusalem want citizenship because Israel is terrific,” they said, as they released numbers of those applying, but avoided one simple fact: Jerusalem Palestinians seek citizenship to assure they won’t be expelled from their country and hometown.

The miser thought that Jerusalem, out of sight and blocked to visitors, would be forgotten by the rest of the Palestinians. The miser is wrong. If Israeli Jews want to stop the disaster brewing in Jerusalem and elsewhere, they must demand that the Israeli government:

* Immediately launch an investigation into last week’s killing of Fadi Alun of Isawiyah, who was shot to death by an unidentified policeman when he was lying wounded on the ground.

* Stop the armed police raids of neighborhoods like Isawiyah and Jabal Mukkaber, and stop beating residents and spraying their homes with foul-smelling water.

* Cancel all the entrance restrictions for Palestinians to Jerusalem’s Old City and the Al-Aqsa compound.

* Order the police to stop giving traffic tickets to Palestinians for reasons they would never use to issue them to Jews.

* Cancel the ban on the Morabiton and Morabitat (Islamic Movement guards on the Temple Mount) and cancel the prohibition on Palestinians, including MKs, to shout and curse.

* Release Palestinian demonstrators arrested over the past year (who are not suspected of using deadly weapons, or murder or attempted murder).

* Cancel the policy of house demolitions as a collective punishment and immediately compensate those who have been its victims.

* Immediately initiate amendments to the entry residency laws that would make it clear that Jerusalemites can never have their residency revoked, even if they live outside the city.

* Immediately restore residency status to the some 14,000 Jerusalemites (and their descendants) who have had it revoked since 1967.

* Cancel all the demolition orders issued against Palestinian homes that were built in the city without permits.

* Restore to East Jerusalem all the lands expropriated from it or allocate comparable tracts of land to replace those allocated to settlements (i.e. “Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem”).

* Begin to plan Israeli-financed public housing projects for Palestinians under the guidance of Palestinian planners, sociologist and social activists.

* Expropriate “Sharon House” in the Old City’s Muslim Quarter and turn it into the headquarters for the planners of the above-mentioned housing program.

* Immediately begin repairing infrastructures and buildings in East Jerusalem, and improving municipal services there.

* Order the removal within a year of nationalist, zealous settlers and their institutions from the Old City and other East Jerusalem neighborhoods, because of the risk they pose to public safety and to law and order in the entire area.

* Open Orient House so it can serve as the city’s PLO headquarters.

* Apologize for 50 years of expulsions, discrimination, humiliation and impoverishment.

* Declare that all these steps are a prelude to demolishing the wall that separates the West Bank from East Jerusalem.

* Declare that the settlement enterprise is a national disaster that threatens the wellbeing of the land and its two peoples. Announce a five-year plan for bringing the West Bank settlers back home, or turning them into law-abiding citizens with no excessive rights in the Palestinian state, subject to that state’s consent and the criminal records of the settlers in question. This would include the settlers in Jerusalem’s Old City and in Hebron. Similarly, declare that all the communities where settlers live will be open at no cost to any Palestinian who chooses to live there, as part of a plan of compensation and reparations.

* Declare that all these steps are in preparation for turning East Jerusalem into the capital of the Palestinian state, following accelerated negotiations on a tight timetable of withdrawals.

Delusional? Actually, all this would be far less painful than the destruction of this land and the two peoples who live in it.