Bible Commentator

Special Stories

Rabbi Moshe Reiss

Special Stories # 13 – Jerusalem – December 2, Rosh Chodesh

There are two ‘final issue’ demands from the Palestinians; First ‘the Right of Return from Palestinian Refugees” and Secondly Eastern Jerusalem as the Capital of the Palestinian State.

Since the basis of any peace with the Palestinians is a two state solution – one state for Jews and one state for Palestinians ‘the Right of Palestinian Return to Israeli Land is simply an Oxymoron. Those who may not know the etymology of Oxymoron it is that morons do not go to Oxford University, one of the class Universities of the world. I know since I am a graduate. To believe that Palestinian Refugees can return to the State of Israel one needs to be a ‘moron’. It is contradictory to the concept of a ‘two state solution’.

So far only Sari Nusseibeh, Professor of Islamic Philosophy and President of Al Quds University (he also co-authored with Ami Ayalon - former head of Shin Beth a peace plan - one of many – all similar) has publicly stated this problem: ‘Listen, we've got to be realistic. You're not going home, because the homes don't exist anymore’. Prior to his death Faisal Husseini also recognized that reality according to Moshe Amirav, who recently published his book ‘Mr. Prime Minister: Jerusalem – Problems and Solutions’. As an advisor to Ehud Barak at the Camp David negotiation in 2000 he complained that just as Arafat refused to discuss the ‘right of return’ Barak refused to discuss any solution to Jerusalem (In Jerusalem, Jerusalem Post, Nov.4(.

At a March 17, 2005, at a meeting in Cairo an agreement was made between Fatah (headed by Abbas), Hamas and Islamic Jihad on continuing the hudna to the end of this year. The prologue to the six point agreement stated ‘It is the right of the Palestinian people to end the occupation and establish a Palestinian state with full sovereignty, with Jerusalem as its capital, and to ensure the right of Palestinians to return to their homes and property’. The agreement conditions include ‘the release of all security prisoners, a withdrawal from the Palestinian cities, and a cessation of military activities’. The condition on ‘all security prisoners’ will eventually be met by Israel.

We have already discussed the ‘Return’ issue, all but Jerusalem are easily solvable.  Jerusalem is not easy solvable, but is not insolvable.

If Jewish politicians continue with the fiction that Jerusalem is an undivided city and the Palestinian state has no rights in Jerusalem the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will go on until the days of the Messiah which is my humble view is centuries from now. There will never be a solution unless we Israeli’s recognized that approximately half the population of Jerusalem in Arab, the remaining half are primarily ultra-orthodox Jews. All  other Jews are obviously leaving Jerusalem. Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Israel, is poverty stricken and a declining city. Unless something is done it can only further decline – it will eventually look Newark, New Jersey or Detroit, Michigan.

There are approximately 250,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem; the fence has 80% on the Israeli side. If the process is completed, some 200,000 Palestinian East Jerusalemites will end up inside Jewish Jerusalem, live under Israeli control, and due to Jewish building they will increasingly be separated from the West Bank. The remaining 50,000 will be outside the barrier, disconnected from the city that has been their centre of their gravity. They will attempt to find their way back into the fenced-in areas. Even Al Quds University is split in the middle by the fence. Arab citizens have inferior rights to Jews - inferior transportation, inferior health care, inferior housing; inferior in all ways. They can vote in municipal elections but have (foolishly in my opinion) boycotted these elections.  If the Arabs voted in a Municipal election there would likely be an Arab Mayor of Jerusalem. However the Arabs in Jerusalem cannot vote in the Knesset. I presume that makes them half citizens, another example of inferior rights.

Will this increase Israeli security? International Crisis Group stated that  
 “In fact, they will undermine it, weakening Palestinian pragmatists, incorporating hundreds of thousands of Palestinians on the Israeli side of the fence, and sowing the seeds of growing radicalism".  Mouin Rabbani, a senior Palestinian and ICG analyst, said it could become easier for militant groups to recruit Palestinians from Jerusalem to carry out attacks as resentment and hardship rose. (International Crisis Group – August 2).

If we continue with this fiction of an undivided Jerusalem it is only a question of time until those humiliated Arabs become like the American Blacks who lit up Los Angeles, Detroit and Newark in the 1960’s and more recently those in France. But worse they will become the new suicide bombers – no longer from Nablus, Jenin and Tulkarem but right next door close to Ben Yehuda street and the Mahane Yehuda market.

A recent EU report stated that the separation barrier purpose is "to seal off most of East Jerusalem, with its 230,000 Palestinian residents, from the West Bank" and to create a "de facto annexation of Palestinian land".

Has a Greater Jerusalem ideology replaced Greater Israel thesis? It may be difficult to see any solution to the Jerusalem old city problem but it is not insoluble. Yes David conquered and founded Jerusalem (according to our narrative) 3,000 years ago. The Muslims conquered Jerusalem 1,400 years ago and held on to it until WWI. Each of us claims God gave it to us. That issue can never be resolved. Only the Greater Israeli proponents and the Greater Palestinian proponents believe they have a solution; they are of course the opposite solutions. As Amirav has stated let God have the sovereignty. What then is left is a real estate problem.  If we cannot share this place there will never be peace.

Just as moving the refugees into Israel is anti the two state solution so this Israeli growth plan around Jerusalem is at war with the two state solution. This will vastly complicate, and perhaps doom, future attempts to resolve the conflict by both preventing the establishment of a viable Palestinian capital in Arab East Jerusalem and obstructing the territorial contiguity of a Palestinian state. Anyone who believes that the current Israeli policy which seems to expect the Palestinians to turn into Finns (an apparent new Jewish fantasy) is him/herself a moron!

Solutions to dividing Jerusalem are a requirement for peace. They can be  developed including the old city – we are smart enough to develop them – all we need is the will! Let us create a temporary solution for 99 years and agree to renegotiate again then.

If we choose not to negotiate the conflict will gone on until God brings on His Day of Judgment.