Against the backdrop of two polls indicating that half of Israelis approve of dividing the capital, while 58 percent approve of revoking tens of thousands of Palestinians’ residency status, a cross-section of Jerusalemites expressed conflicting opinions near Zion Square on Wednesday.
The polls, conducted by the Knesset’s TV Channel and the Israeli Midgam Institute, respectively, were taken after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently suggested revoking the residency status of Palestinians who reside in violent east Jerusalem neighborhoods.
Madeline Abraham, a middle-aged American-Israeli originally from Texas, said she is most conflicted about dividing the capital.
“I’m very torn, particularly about dividing the city, because first of all, all of Jerusalem belongs to us [the Jews],” she said.
“If I really believed that it would bring peace, I’d consider it, but I don’t think that it will, because it’s never going to be enough for them [the Palestinians]. After getting all of east Jerusalem they’re going to want the other side, too.”
In terms of revoking residency status, Abraham was less ambivalent.
“I think it should have happened 15-20 years ago, because the people who are carrying out this terrorism against us and inciting it have Israeli rights,” she said. “They get government money, live here and receive all the rights, and no normal country would give them rights if they’re going to turn around and terrorize the people.”
Danny Sorek, a 34-year-old musician, said he strongly disagrees with dividing the city or revoking residency status.
“I believe the solution must be peace between two peoples,” he said. “I mean, we are the same; we are not different because of our religion.”
The solution to the conflict, Sorek contended, is mutual respect.
“I think that when people start to respect each other, there will be no more violence,” he said. “It’s a matter of behavior; people should know each other. Politics is just about power and money and control.”
Asked how the government should deal with the spike in violence and incitement, Sorek suggested a new strategy.
“Of course we must do something different, because what we are doing now is not making any change,” he said. “The police should do their job, which is to protect the people, but the solution is not force, it is to talk.”
To that end, Sorek said there needs to be a wholesale change of leadership on both sides of the divide.
“We need to change the leaders,” he said. “And reasonable people who can compromise should talk and decide that everything should be fair. Fair is 50/50. And I wish for the change to come.”
Liel Ben-David, a 20-year-old film student, said there are no easy answers.
“I think that it is complicated,” she said. “You just can’t do things [unilaterally]. It’s more complicated than that.”
Moreover, Ben-David asserted that neither measure would heighten her personal security.
“It will make no difference,” she said.
Meanwhile, Tal, a law student who requested her last name not be published, said she supports revoking residency status of both Jews and Arabs who endanger the welfare of citizens.
“If Palestinians do something that is very dangerous to Israel, maybe it is the right thing,” she said. “But also for Jews. When anyone – Jewish or Arab – carries out a terrorist attack, they should face the same consequences.”
With respect to dividing the city, Tal said it should not be a consideration.
“Jerusalem needs to be one city for Arabs, Jews and Christians,” she said.
While Eitan, a 57-year-old accountant, said he would support both measures if they brought peace, he said he would prefer revoking the residency of imminently dangerous Palestinians.
“Revoking status is better, because of what we have seen happen over the past month,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair to give citizenship to people who want to kill you. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Eitan added that, for all intents and purposes, Jerusalem is already divided, therefore he would not hesitate to cut off the most violent Arab neighborhoods in the capital.
“For me, to give back four or five neighborhoods is not a problem,” he said. “The few neighborhoods with only Arabs inside is not Jerusalem to me anyway.”
“I would like to have a Jerusalem where people don’t want to kill you,” he added.