The Jerusalem Problem

Three current proposals concerning the divided city ignore the fact that its problems cannot be solved without the agreement and participation of its Palestinian residents

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A picture taken on October 25, 2017 from Jabel Mukaber, a Palestinian neighbourhood in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem shows the Old City of Jerusalem with the Dome of the Rock.
A picture taken on October 25, 2017 from Jabel Mukaber, a Palestinian neighbourhood in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem shows the Old City of Jerusalem with the Dome of the Rock. Credit: AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP
Haaretz Editorial

On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation is supposed to discuss a bill sponsored by MK Yoav Kish (Likud) to annex Jerusalem-area settlements to the city. The draft law would subordinate the government of the settlements surrounding the capital to a “super-municipality.” The communities would retain a degree of autonomy, including elected councils that would share a voting day with the Jerusalem Municipality.

Kish has not concealed the fact that the bill’s purpose is “to preserve a demographic balance” – that is, to bolster Jerusalem’s Jewish majority.

A different proposal from the right-wing benches is that of Zeev Elkin, minister of Jerusalem affairs and heritage. This calls for the removal of Kafr Aqab and the Shoafat refugee camp from the jurisdiction of Jerusalem and creating a new, Israeli, local government for them.

Shoafat and Kafr Aqab are Palestinian neighborhoods that are within the borders of the capital, but on the West Bank side of the separation barrier. For the past decade, they have suffered from anarchy, poverty and collapsing infrastructure. In this case, too, the motivation is to strengthen the city’s Jewish majority by removing 100,000 Palestinians, at least, from Jerusalem’s population registry.

A third proposal is backed by former Minister Haim Ramon and MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union). It would have Israel withdrawing unilaterally from most of Jerusalem’s Palestinian neighborhoods, while keeping the Old City and the holy sites.

The three proposals are proof that the annexation of East Jerusalem has failed. After 50 years of Israel trying to live with the occupation without feeling it, the slogans about “Jerusalem united forever” have begun to recede, in favor of new understandings. As it turns out, there is a problem and its name is Jerusalem.

At first glance, the three proposals are different in purpose. Kish seeks to begin de facto annexation of the West Bank in Jerusalem and to entrench the annexation of 1967. Ramon and Hasson want to reduce it, and Elkin hopes to redraw the map. But in fact, all three have more in common than they have differences.

They are all one-sided, treating the Palestinians as game pieces that can be shuttled around in order to reinforce the Jewish majority and improve Israel’s grasp on the city. All three express a total lack of obligation to the Palestinian residents, whose place of residence (but not they themselves, since they are not Israeli citizens) Israel annexed. These Palestinians have a right to receive the same services and infrastructure from the state as West Jerusalem.

All three proposals also ignore the fact that Jerusalem is part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that none of its real problems can be solved without discussing them with representatives of the Palestinian people and reaching agreement with them.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel

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