The upshot of last week’s Obama-Netanyahu confrontation is that the White House wants to move Israel rapidly towards a division of Jerusalem.
However, the widely held presumption that splitting Jerusalem will lead to prosperity for the city and to peace for Jews and Arabs is an egregious error. Partitioning Jerusalem will destroy the city. It will die, in every way – culturally, religiously, economically and more. And politically, the shearing of Jerusalem into Arab and Jewish sovereignties will turn it into the bull’s eye of Mideast battle – a city that will make Belfast at its worst look like paradise.
The main reason for this is that any section of the city handed over to Arab rule will immediately become ground zero for the fierce war being waged within the Arab world over Islamic lifestyle, ideology and legitimacy.
Just who is going to rule in Arab eastern Jerusalem? Will it be the declining secular Palestinian national movement (whose sway in the West Bank is tentative at best), or the radical Islamist Hamas (which openly seeks Israel’s destruction), or the annihilationist al-Qaida affiliated forces (who are growing in strength in the territories), or the increasingly radical and violent Israeli Arab Islamic movement (which has been the main force behind recent unrest on the Temple Mount), or the Jordanians (who have a superior claim to Arab leadership in Jerusalem under the 1994 peace treaty with Israel), or the Moroccans (who head the Arab League’s Supreme Jerusalem Committee), or the Saudis (who see themselves as the true custodians of Islamic holy sites)?
EACH OF these forces will seek to prove its supremacy and bolster its legitimacy in the Islamic world through control of Arab Jerusalem and aggression against what remains of Jewish Jerusalem. What better way to prove one’s loyalty to the Islamic cause than to attack the rump Israeli presence in the city? And with bases of operations to work from in the eastern half of the city (whose neighborhoods will no longer be under Israeli security control) – locations that are bare meters away from Israeli homes and government and commercial centers – such terrorism will be oh, so very easy, so irresistibly tantalizing.
Thus, if the city is irresponsibly butchered into halves, it will inevitably die a slow death. What Israeli family is going to walk with its kids to the Western Wall on Friday night through checkpoints and alleyways patrolled by Palestinian police? What Birthright group is going to shop in the Mamilla pedestrian mall below Jaffa Gate with Palestinian or Arab League sharpshooters on the Old City walls above?
What American church group is going to march along the Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem’s Christian and Muslim Quarters with Hamas or Saudi modesty patrols harassing the women? What hi-tech company is going to invest in Jerusalem when the Kassam missiles start flying from Sheikh Jarrah into Har Hotzvim?
The world needs to be reminded directly: It is only complete Israeli security control over united, greater Jerusalem that prevents the city from becoming a boiling cauldron of conflict within the volatile Arab and Islamic world and from becoming the hottest-ever-imaginable flashpoint of Israeli-Arab war. There is no “neutral” peacekeeping force in the world that will do a serious or better job than the IDF and Israel Police of keeping Jerusalem a terrorist-free zone.
There is also absolutely no empirical basis to believe that Arab rulers of Jerusalem will maintain the Israeli gold standard of unimpeded religious worship in the city. There is no Arab or Muslim country in the Middle East where Christians or Jews can freely operate religious institutions. Under Palestinian Authority and Hamas rule, Christians in the West Bank and Gaza have been hounded, terrorized and driven out. Christian Bethlehem is, effectively, no more. The Church of Nativity was defiled by Palestinian Muslim terrorists who turned it into an armed refuge in 2002. Who will protect the churches of Jerusalem from the same fate under Islamic rule?
JEWISH SYNAGOGUES and holy sites in Jericho, Nablus and Gush Katif have fared no better – they were burned to the ground while Palestinian police looked on. Under Jordanian rule, Jews were not allowed to reach their holy places in Jerusalem at all, while thousands of Jewish graves on the Mount of Olives were desecrated and the tombstones used to pave streets. How can this be prevented under Palestinian rule?
Here’s the truth: It can’t. Neither the purported Arab rulers of eastern Jerusalem that President Barack Obama so earnestly wants to induct, nor the international community, will competently guard Jewish, Christian and Western interests in Jerusalem. Israel is the only reliable, responsible guardian of Jerusalem.
And while we’re at it, here is another non-politically correct truth that needs to be articulated: Israel needs, desires and has developed Jerusalem as a workable, attractive city; it is the centerpiece of the ancient Jewish people and the modern State of Israel.
The Arabs and Palestinians, however, don’t really care about Jerusalem; they never did. In fact, they would consider it a triumph if Jerusalem were so wracked by conflict and poverty that it was ruined for 1,000 years – just as long as it would be lost to the Jews. That is one more reason why Jerusalem cannot be parceled out to the Palestinians.
We need “to tell the truth when it is needed,” as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condescendingly said in her recent AIPAC speech. Well, the truth is that Jerusalem under Israel has flourished. For Jews, Muslims, Christians, scholars, clergymen, craftsmen, architects, artists, archeologists and tourists alike, the past 43 years have been good times. For everyday citizens too: Never before in its 3,000-year history has the city been such a magnet for simple residency. Witness the incredible demand for, and sky-high prices of, housing in the city today.
Israel has sagaciously developed the city from a backwater town to a magnificent metropolis, and astutely kept it open and expanded the possibilities for religious worship of all faiths. Cautious Israeli custodianship has kept a lid on the always-smoldering religious-national tensions in the city. It has, most of the time, managed the complicated city with sophistication and sensitivity.
Even the Arabs of Jerusalem agree. Any Palestinian will tell you (privately, of course) that, in the broader scale of things, he prefers to live in an Israeli-controlled Jerusalem over a Jerusalem controlled by a Hamas imam-ocracy or the incredibly mislabeled Palestinian “Authority” (where there is little authority or democracy of any type).
That’s why very few Jerusalem Arabs have ever participated in terrorist activities. That’s why any and every Palestinian who can has been desperately scurrying over to the Israeli side of the security fence in and around Jerusalem. That’s why Jerusalem Arabs are buying up homes at a dizzying pace in several predominantly Jewish neighborhoods like French Hill, Pisgat Ze’ev and Talpiot.
Thus, the sundering of Jerusalem is not only patently unwise, but
unfair to Jewish history and to Israel’s fine stewardship of the city.
Has the Obama administration even bothered to think this through?
The writer is director of public affairs at Bar-Ilan University’s
Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Affairs. He blogs at
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