One of the main aims of Palestinian participation at the recent United Nations Assembly was to gain widespread international recognition that statehood would begin on 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital. Although it is clear that such a proposal would not succeed in achieving the official stamp of law it would, through sheer weight of numbers, resound with virtual legitimacy.
The Palestinian leadership constantly chant the mantra of Jerusalem as their capital. Why? What rights do they have for claiming Jerusalem at all, let alone their new nation’s capital?
The overriding claim they can make is based on United Nations resolutions that call on Israel to withdraw from territories it captured in a war of aggression instigated against the Jewish state by Arab nations. These resolutions did not call on Israel to withdraw from all the territories. It did allow Israel to withdraw to secure boundaries. It can be successfully argued that removing their presence from east Jerusalem would leave Israel exposed to frightening dangers.
Anyone familiar with the geography and demographics of the eastern section of this built up municipal area sense the impossibility of carving out a Palestinian entity. The two parts are so intimately intertwined that grafting on a Palestinian imprint would leave both bodies hemorrhaging badly.
For those not familiar with the real estate involved in Israel glibly handing over what is called east Jerusalem to a Palestinian leadership let me itemize just a few of the ancient, historic, and significant places that would, of necessity, change hands. The implications for Jews is that the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, scenes of the traditional Solomon’s Temple, would fall into Islamic hands, as would the Jewish and Christian Quarters of the Old City. The new Palestinian state, vowed to uphold Islam as their one true religion and have Shariah Law as their guiding principle, would control sensitive Christian shrines such as The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Room of the Last Supper, the Garden of Gethsemane. The Mount of Olives, sacred to Christians and a Jewish burial ground, would also be in Palestinian hands. Other invaluable institutions such as the Rockefeller Museum, Hadassah Hospital, and access to the Hebrew University would fall to the Palestinians.
So the argument is not over a few homes in which the majority of residents are Arab. It is over the fundamental fact that the only time in history when Jerusalem has been free to all the major faiths, and has been developed for the benefit of mankind, has been since it was finally united by Israel in 1967. Does anyone truly believe that a Palestinian entity will maintain the universal godliness and goodliness of Jerusalem as well as it has been maintained under Israeli sovereignty? For those few deranged individuals who would answer in the affirmative I challenge them with this question. What would happen to Jerusalem in a year’s time of the Palestinians hold to their promise of new elections and Hamas again wins with a large majority? Would this radical, terrorist, Islamic organization suddenly become Mother Theresa and throw a blanket of peace and freedom to all over holy Jerusalem? Or would they begin by renaming the Hebrew University the Islamic University?
I find it strange that successive Israeli governments and Prime Ministers have not been more outspoken in rejecting the notion that Jerusalem must be the capital of a new Palestinian state. Maybe they are keeping their powder dry for direct negotiations before telling the Palestinian leadership to go find another center for their capital? I doubt it.
There is very little open space in the residential parts of east Jerusalem. The available open space, with its sharply undulating topography, is not suitable for planning a major new administrative project. If it would have been possible Jerusalem mayors and administrations would have done so long ago. So where would a Palestinian Authority place its legislative building?
My guess is that there will be radical voices calling for the new Palestinian Parliament to be constructed inside the Old City adjoining the Dome of the Rock to add to the religious as well as nationalistic nature of their regime. This would mean that they would locate their official governmental seat right in the center of their new capital in the heart of Jerusalem, and that location would be where the Western Wall Plaza stand today. The Western Wall Plaza is the assembly point for thousands of worshippers, tourists, and visitors to the juncture of the most holy places on earth. It is a vast square where official ceremonies are held throughout the Israeli and Jewish calendar. It is where any Islamic regime would wish to make a statement of intent. By placing their legislature on that spot they would be declaring victory over the infidels and non-believers. And, in such an agreed state, who would be able to stop them?
So, where should a new Palestinian capital be built, if not in Jerusalem? Well, actually, they don’t need to build a new one anywhere. They are already constructing and developing their capital. It’s called Ramallah. That is where their president sits. That is where their prime minister administers his country. That is where they have built all their legislature. That is where their courts are. That is where their founding hero, Yasser Arafat, is buried. This has been done by massive financial support from the international community. Why waste all that huge economic resource by uprooting it all and moving it anywhere?
There has been a building boom going on in Judea and Samaria, known as the West Bank, and most of that has been centered on Ramallah. The number of homes in the last four years has increased by 25%, according to figures released by the Palestinian Authority. This year, more homes will be built in Palestinian controlled areas (33,822) than in Israel. In 2010, in Israel, only 33,128 homes were built. This year’s figure is expected to fall. Much of the Palestinian construction is taking place in or near Ramallah. Mohammad Shtayyeh, a former Palestinian minister of public works recently told the Media Line that “Because of the government and ministries and private sector and the NGO’s, Ramallah has to have public and office buildings. There are 25,000 people commuting to jobs in Ramallah every day.”
The Palestinians are currently building a new town north of Ramallah. With an estimated construction cost of $800 million, Rawabi, is projected to house 40,000 people.
With such intensive development being centered in Ramallah surely the Israeli government and media should highlight the fact that the Palestinians have already established their capital in Ramallah and there is no need to make another capital in Jerusalem as yet another precondition for peace.
Even if Israel does not wish to make this non-starter a precondition for peace talks it should, at least, open the dialogue on this highly sensitive issue.