Gershon Baskin, “Jerusalem demographics”
Source: Blog Central at the Jerusalem Post (http://www.jpost.com), 09 May 2007, Distributed by the Common Ground News Service with permission to republish.
Jerusalem is a divided city. Since 1948 it has been a divided city and it will always remain a divided city. The political leadership of Israel speaks of a consensus on the future status of Jerusalem. This consensus, defined as the Israeli policy, supposedly is as follows: All of Jerusalem is Israel’s eternal, undivided capital. All of Jerusalem must remain under Israeli sovereignty forever. I maintain that this is not really the consensus of Israeli opinion on Jerusalem but is in fact a rather narrow view of what should be the future of this city. The true consensus, as opposed to this mythical consensus, can be stated as follows:
All Israelis believe and desire that:
1. Jerusalem must never return to the status it had prior to June 1967. Jerusalem should never be physically divided. It must remain an open city with free access throughout its boundaries for all.
2. Personal security and security of property must be guaranteed for all in all parts of the city. No one should have to fear getting a knife in his back in any part of the city and no one should have to fear getting his car torched or other property damaged in any part of the city.
3. The new Jewish neighborhoods built in East Jerusalem after 1967 must remain under Israeli sovereignty.
4. The Jewish Holy Places must remain under Israeli control. (This does not include the top of Temple Mount where Jews are not allowed to enter by Jewish Law).
Why do I think this is the true consensus? To begin with, if Israelis (and even Jerusalemites) were asked to draw a map of today’s municipal boundaries, very few would be capable of completing the task. Moreover, if Israelis were asked to name the 18 neighborhoods of Arab East Jerusalem, almost none of them would be able to do so.
If you asked Israelis how many of them have visited in those Arab neighborhoods, the answer would be almost none. If you asked who would be interested in visiting those Arab neighborhoods, the answer would be the same. I feel certain that almost all Israelis, if asked whether the Jerusalem municipality should invest money in developing those Arab neighborhoods, almost all Israelis would say that it shouldn’t.
Certainly, this has been the practice: Since 1967, the Jerusalem municipality has invested next to nothing in those. Again, ask Israelis if their country has any real need (other than perhaps security) for controlling those neighborhoods. The answer of most people, I am certain, would be no. Ask any Israeli if they were willing to fight and die so that Jabel Mukaber or Tsur Baher should remain part of the undivided eternal capital of Israel — the answer would be most certainly no!
All of this would seem to suggest that most Israelis don’t really care about the Arab parts of East Jerusalem. Rather, most Israelis are concerned about the ability of Israel to maintain its capital in Jerusalem, to have security, to have an open Old City with Jewish control of Jewish Holy Places. But the status of the Arab sections of Jerusalem is really of little interest to almost all Israelis.
Jerusalem will never be a unified city unless it can be shared. It will only be possible to share Jerusalem once the two sides and their leaders cut down on the rhetoric that polarizes and, instead, begin to help the public, on both sides, understand the true character of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a city of two peoples which both claim national, historic and religious rights to it. Real sharing can only be achieved by recognizing the political reality that has existed here since 1967.
Since the overwhelming majority of Israelis really only care about the Jewish parts of Jerusalem, let’s concentrate on them and recognize that the Palestinians today are willing to accept rule over only their parts of the city. Jerusalem can stay physically united. If Palestinian Jerusalem is growing, let it be — and let them invest in its development.
Let us invest in Israeli Jerusalem, and let us all cut the empty talk of a demographic crisis in Jerusalem. There is only a demographic crisis in Jerusalem if we insist on continuing our control over Palestinian Jerusalem. Let Israel rule over Israeli Jerusalem and let Palestine rule over Palestinian Jerusalem and Jerusalem will become one city living in peace.
*Gershon Baskin is the co-CEO of the Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information (www.ipcri.org).