E. Jerusalemites skeptical on statehood

By ABE SELIG
November 9, 2009 01:22

East Jerusalem residents

3 minute read.



While anxiety is reportedly mounting within the government over the possibility of a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood, with east Jerusalem as its capital, residents of east Jerusalem - Arab and Jewish alike - told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that they have little faith such a prospect would materialize, and were more concerned with their daily lives than with vague expectations for the future. In August, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad made clear his intentions to build institutions and infrastructure that would accommodate a future Palestinian state. The prospect of a unilateral declaration of independence, which has reportedly been gaining international support, has also sent jitters through the halls of the Knesset. But inside a small kiosk on the bustling Salah a-Din (Saladin) Street on Sunday, Hamed, a tour guide who asked that his real name not be used, told the Post that the primary concern in east Jerusalem was earning a living, and not necessarily a rush to statehood. "It's different for us," Hamed said. "Because we're from east Jerusalem, we're treated differently, even by other Palestinians. We have blue Israeli ID cards, when we travel abroad, we use Jordanian documents, and when we go into the West Bank, people think we're spoiled - but we're not. We are living with an isolated identity." Regarding Fayad's plan, Hamed said that while PA officials in Ramallah might be excited about its prospects, the east Jerusalem street wasn't biting just yet. "We have no faith in the Palestinian government anymore," he said. "Everyone knows that that they have no real power. When Fayad makes these kinds of declarations, honestly, people laugh." Hamed explained that through his job, he was constantly meeting tourists who want to see "the fighting." "But look around," he said. "There is no fighting. People are going to work. People are trying to make a living - that's what's important to us right now." That Fayad's initiative was finding support abroad didn't sway Hamed either, although he did agree that if the PA were to take visible steps toward statehood, east Jerusalem residents would likely begin to rally behind them. "I have family in Ramallah," he said. "We see what the PA is doing there, things have changed. We're beginning to see a semblance of law and order that we didn't see in the past. And Salaam Fayad is a Jerusalemite, which gives him more credibility. People want to trust him, we do feel that he's doing things to try and make a difference. "And Abu Mazen has stolen his riches already," Hamed added, laughing. "I don't think he needs to steal anymore. "But in the meantime, we're trying to get by, and however we can do that better, that's fine. But until we can see that the PA is serious about these plans, I don't think anyone will really believe it." Down the street in a small bakery, a young employee named Jameel echoed Hamed's statements almost verbatim. "I'll believe it when I see it," Jameel said when asked about the prospects of east Jerusalem becoming the capital of a Palestinian state. "People here haven't seen anything to make them believe that this is actually going to happen. "You can say anything you want," he added. "Obama said he was going to pursue the peace process here, and that hasn't really gone anywhere. You can say you're going to take over the world, but can you actually do that? "I want there to be a Palestinian state, I'm hoping for it," Jameel continued, talking in between customers. "But in the meantime, nothing is happening on the ground to help me believe it." Arab residents of east Jerusalem weren't the only ones to chime in on the matter on Sunday. Menahem, a Jewish resident of Ma'aleh Hazeitim, who also asked that his real name not be used, told the Post that Jews in the capital's eastern neighborhoods weren't paying any mind to Fayad's plans either, albeit for different reasons. "Not in the least," Menahem said when asked if people were worried about such a plan's implications. "What we're paying attention to are our daily lives, and the marked increase of violence we've begun to experience here recently." Menahem explained that stone-throwing, which he said was uncommon even a year ago in the Ras al-Amud neighborhood - where Ma'aleh Hazeitim is located - has become a normal, almost daily occurrence. "But people aren't noticing because it's not being reported on," he said. "We feel that this is quite possibly a build-up to the third intifada, not a declaration of independence."


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