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Jerusalem: Two Cities

17 November 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

So far the security fence in the center of Israel has proven fairly successful over the past few months.  Now it is being built in the Jerusalem area and will encircle the entire city and the Jewish town of Ma’ale Adumim to the east.  By encompassing a “unified Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Israel” the average Israeli is continuing the myth began in the aftermath of the 1967 Six Day War that Jerusalem is truly one city.  In essence it is two:  One Jewish and one Arab.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem and much of its environs 36 years ago during the euphoria of the capture of the Old City and return to the Jewish Quarter and Western Wall.  It was unnecessary and brought 55,000 Arabs under the municipal umbrella including a stretch far to the north taking in Shuafat and the Kalandia refugee camp.  All this was done apparently to secure the British constructed Atarot airport and to save a few million dollars in order not to build an airfield in the western part of the city.  Expanding the city limits to build new Jewish neighborhoods such as Ramot Eshkol, French Hill, Ramot, Gilo and East Talpiot would do no harm but the Neve Ya’akov neighborhood far to the north only complicated the issue as it was surrounded by Arab areas.

Today there are approximately 250,000 Arabs in Jerusalem carrying Israeli ID cards and identifying as Palestinian.  In the Jerusalem construction heyday many Palestinians moved into the city from the West Bank in search of work (and built those Jewish neighborhoods).  Arab natural increase was and is far beyond that of the Jews and the 1967 proportion of 76% Jews to 24% Arabs is today two thirds Jewish and one third Arab despite all the Jewish construction.  It will not take long before there is an Arab majority.

Israel hopes by building the fence to keep terrorism out, yet by retaining a farcical “united” Jerusalem Israel will be forcing an internalization of a quarter million Palestinians who for sure will remain a security threat.  Here the fence will backfire.  On the economic side Palestinians with Israeli ID cards have all the socio-economic rights as Israelis even if they refuse citizenship.  Furthermore the vast majority do not live in any area of religious or national significance to Jews and Israel.

The Right, the Center and even much of the center Left still live the myth of a “unified Jerusalem”.  In essence Yossi Beilin and other adherents of the solid Left have most of the answer when they speak of a split duel capital for Israel and Palestine.  They would give all the Arab neighborhoods to the Palestinians with Israel retaining Jewish developments.  There are Arab areas such as the Old City, Silwan (the City of David) and the Mt. of Olives being of major importance to Jews and demanding an Israeli presence.

True, one cannot build a fence down the middle of Jerusalem today and security wise a fence on the city outskirts will keep out West Bank terrorists.  The Jewish population world-wide must become cognizant of the need to re-divide Jerusalem and stop living the myth.  Israel is worried about the demographic issue even within her 1967 boundaries with many projecting an Arab majority in 50 years. 

According to Uzi Dayan (former Deputy Chief of Staff, ex-National Security Advisor and founder of the Israeli Zionist Congress) the Arabic speaking population is 18.7% with 3.5% of that number in East Jerusalem while another 1.6% is Druze, known for their loyalty to the state and service in the army.  Assuming 90% of East Jerusalem Arabs would be in the future Palestinian state, Israel’s Arabic speaking population would be less than 15.6% and from here the Druze can be deducted as they can be found standing somewhat between the two worlds. 

Possible Jewish paranoia and policies based on fear can be laid to rest and more steps (including monies) can be taken to help with Israeli Arab integration into the mainstream.  The demographic boogyman can be held at bay and the billions of dollars spent on social services for East Jerusalem Arabs over the years can be funneled to Israel’s own poor, Jewish and Arab.

And just as a reminder, Jerusalem’s Atarot airport has been closed for the past three years due to Palestinian violence.