Understanding the Campaign to Divide the Holy City
On Sunday, Israel celebrated “Jerusalem Day,” the anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem during the Six Day War in 1967.
Since the intensification of terrorist activities in Jerusalem last September, the issue of dividing Jerusalem has surfaced yet again. It appears in two main forms – the usual demand from Arabs that Israel vacate the areas it liberated in the Six Day War and a new campaign by former Israeli leftist cabinet minister Haim Ramon’s “Save Jewish Jerusalem” movement. The Labor party opposition chief, Isaac Herzog, has expressed similar sentiments.
After Israel liberated east Jerusalem in the Six Day War, it incorporated the area previously under Jordanian occupation as well as significantly expanding the borders of the new united Jerusalem. This expanded section known today as “east Jerusalem” ultimately included 28 Arab neighborhoods, comprising today around 300,000 Arabs and 9 large Jewish neighborhoods of over 250,000 Jews (about 45 percent of the total Jewish population in Jerusalem). The Jewish and Arab neighborhoods are pretty much intertwined although Jews do not frequent these neighborhoods lately due to safety concerns.
The Arab and international communities demand Israel’s complete withdrawal to pre-1967 armistice lines – that is, vacate the area liberated and subsequently populated by a quarter of a million Jews.
The Ramon Plan would cancel the Jerusalem Law, which officially annexed eastern Jerusalem to Israel, and hand over all the Arab neighborhoods to the Palestinian Authority.
After the amazing miracle of unifying Jerusalem in 1967 after so much bloodshed, how do we understand these efforts to divide Jerusalem?
As far as the Arabs are concerned, their diplomatic efforts are part of a multifaceted strategy to “liberate” Jerusalem from her “occupiers.” Stage 1 is to sow fear and dread into Israeli citizens, demoralize them, and lead them to the conclusion that the only option is to “separate” from the Palestinians – especially in Jerusalem. This is crucial for the Arabs who, by their own admission, would use the vacated territory as a launching pad for even more intense and deadly attacks (stage 2).
So, withdrawing Israeli sovereignty from the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem would not “get rid of” the Arabs, as many fantasize, but actually just get rid of Israeli sovereignty, security control and intelligence-gathering capabilities, and signal to the Arabs that Israel is ready to capitulate to terrorism.
But many Israelis, as well as in the international community, are so desperate for peace and quiet that they have been swayed by this formidable combination of terrorism, information warfare and lawfare, mixed with a dose of despair. Hence Haim Ramon’s plan to hand over the 28 Arab neighborhoods to Palestinian Authority control, build a wall separating the Jewish and Arab neighborhoods and stop social security payments to the Arabs of east Jerusalem who would lose their residency rights.
So why shouldn’t we divide Jerusalem and give peace a chance?
Dividing Jerusalem by giving away sovereignty and control of the city’s approximately 28 Arab neighborhoods could actually import a Gaza strip reality to Jerusalem and put hundreds of thousands of Jews in eastern and western Jerusalem in imminent danger. The resulting vacuum would most likely be filled by Hamas, ISIS and other terrorist organizations sworn to Israel’s destruction, bringing them to our doorstep. It has already happened in two neighborhoods that were left out of the security barrier but are still in Jerusalem – Kafr Aqab and the Shuafat refugee camp. Those two neighborhoods are rife with terrorism, Hamas rule, hard drugs being supplied to Jerusalem, and proliferation of weapons. This could expand to all the 28 neighborhoods if Israel withdraws unilaterally. Getting control of this area would embolden them immeasurably to complete the struggle of total liberation of “Al-Quds” — the Arabic name for the city of Jerusalem.
If you support keeping Jerusalem united under Israel’s sovereignty, what steps must be taken to ensure Jerusalem’s security and peaceful prosperity over the next decades?
- More information and facts to the public: Dividing Jerusalem by handing over Arab neighborhoods would endanger hundreds of thousands of Jewish residents. Tens of thousands of Jews would leave the city and tens of thousands of Arabs who would find themselves outside of Jerusalem would move to Jewish neighborhoods. (Most Arab residents of Jerusalem actually prefer to remain in Israeli-controlled Jerusalem. Holy sites of all religions are fully guaranteed only under Israeli sovereignty.)
- Build thousands of apartments in affordable Jewish neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem, thereby stemming the current outward flow of Jews from the city and correcting the demographic imbalance threatening to create an Arab majority in the city within 15 years.
- Uncompromising crackdown on terrorism and incitement by the Palestinian media and school system (including Israeli-funded Arab schools in eastern Jerusalem).
- Develop and implement a long-term policy to maintain a united Jerusalem under full Israeli sovereignty, including housing, security, education, infrastructure and tourism, to permanently change the face of Jerusalem and mold it into a truly united city, not just in theory. This will benefit not only Jewish Israelis but certainly the Arab citizens and anyone from the free world who cares about Israel, the holy sites and democracy.
Chaim Silberstein is the founder and President of Im Eshkachech-Keep Jerusalem, a public advocacy organization working to keep Jerusalem united under Israeli sovereignty. This article was originally published by The Spectator.