Et Tu, Mayor Barkat?

Mayor Nir Barkat's suggestion to seal off neighborhoods in East Jerusalem is more about positioning himself as 'Jerusalem's Rudy Giuliani' than to prevent further attacks.

Tomer Appelbaum

After two terror attacks in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Mayor Nir Barkat said the state should consider closing off East Jerusalem neighborhoods. This is ridiculous. Throughout his mayoralty, Barkat has repeatedly declared that the desire for a shared life and normalcy would ultimately win, bringing about the city’s complete unification. He’s a big believer in the “Israelization” of the Palestinians of East Jerusalem, and has worked hard to impose Israeli sovereignty on the Arab neighborhoods.

At every opportunity, he brandishes poll numbers showing that a significant proportion of these people would choose to remain under Israeli sovereignty if a Palestinian state were established, and scorned claims that the occupation, the oppression and emotions about the Temple Mount would cause a violent outbreak and compel Israel to rethink the term “united Jerusalem.” His statement on Tuesday was an unequivocal admission of the failure of a project now in its 48th year, whose sole purpose is to erase the Green Line in Jerusalem and blur the differences between the city’s eastern and western parts.

Nevertheless, this project hasn’t failed completely, as will be discovered by anyone who does try to close off East Jerusalem. Land expropriations from residents of the city’s eastern section and the establishment of Jewish neighborhoods, transportation infrastructure and settlements in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods have rendered impossible any attempt to separate the two parts of the city, even if only temporarily, for security purposes. And that’s without even mentioning the legal problems in such a move. Most East Jerusalem residents have Israeli identity cards (with permanent residency status); a minority are Israeli citizens. How will police officers at the checkpoints distinguish among these citizens and residents?

But mostly, this would be ineffective against terror. It’s impossible to hermetically seal off the hundreds of pathways, streets and roads linking the two parts of the city. This suggests that Barkat’s demand was meant for public relations, more to position him as “Jerusalem’s Rudy Giuliani” than to prevent the next terror attack.

Since the start of the latest wave of violence, decision makers in the government — not to mention opposition leader and Labor Party chairman Isaac Herzog, who has jumped on the bandwagon — have tried to blame the other side and find easy solutions, from accusing Palestinians and Arab MKs of incitement to ordering security forces to shoot to kill when confronting terrorists at the scene of an attack to, now, closing off neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. But all of these are just a smokescreen for the helplessness of the Netanyahu government, which instead of throwing out idiotic ideas should be trying to calm the atmosphere by means of dialogue with and confidence-building measures toward the Palestinians.