A group of MKs tour East Jerusalem, October 2017.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Despite restrictions imposed by the Israel Police, a group of center-left MKs toured east Jerusalem on Sunday, after a bill was submitted by Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) to hand over control of some of its neighborhoods to the Palestinian Authority.
The tour was attended by Zionist Union MKs Yoel Hasson, Revital Swid, Stav Shaffir, Eyal Ben-Reuven, Yael Cohen Paran and former Justice and Interior minister Haim Ramon, who is currently active in a movement promoting such a move.
The MKs visited Nebi Samuel lookout north of Jerusalem, continued to the east Jerusalem National Insurance Institute in Sheikh Jarrah and finished at the Mount Scopus lookout, viewing Jerusalem’s Old City and the Holy Basin.
The tour was originally planned to go through other neighborhoods such as Sur Bahir and Jebl Mukaber, as well as some located behind the security barrier such as Shuafat refugee camp and Kafr Aqab. According to Hasson, however, the police prevented the legislators from visiting those places, saying it would be difficult to provide security along such a route.
“Police told me that they don’t have the ability to protect us – inside Jerusalem,” Hasson told The Jerusalem Post
. “They explicitly said they cannot keep us secure there. One of them told me: ‘I am not sending policemen there, so I how can I let an MK go there?’”
Police responded by saying most of the sites the group wanted to visit were permitted and those that were not were disqualified for security reasons.
“The Israel Police is responsible for the public’s wellbeing and our representatives among them,” reads a statement that was sent to the Post
“These remarks are not reflecting the reality in which thousands of policemen are scattered around Jerusalem in any given time, working to protect the public order and the security also in the villages of east Jerusalem.”
Hasson’s bill suggests making all Palestinian neighborhoods of east Jerusalem that were under Jordanian control before 1967 – except the Old City and the six neighborhoods of the Holy Basin – part of area B, meaning they would be under Palestinian civil control and Israeli military control.
According to Hasson, these neighborhoods are not really part of Jerusalem, and maintaining control of them presents risk to Israel and to the character of the capital.
“When we were so happy to reunite Jerusalem in 1967, it was the because of the reunification of Israeli west Jerusalem and Jordanian east Jerusalem, and that was the real Jerusalem,” he said. “What happened next is that they added other Palestinian villages [inside Jerusalem’s municipal border] that were considered a part of the West Bank, like Issawiya, Jebl Mukaber and Shuafat. And this addition wasn’t real [part of Jerusalem]. They never assimilated them and never made these neighborhoods like other Jerusalem neighborhoods.”
“This move made Jerusalem an unstable city from the security perspective, a city that is really hard to protect,” Hasson added. “It also made it a city with a demographic danger – it is almost a binational city, and I believe that it is the prelude to Israel’s future if we won’t achieve a permanent solution with the Palestinians.”
Under the bill, some 230,000 Arabs now living in Jerusalem would live under PA control, leaving 100,000 under Israeli control. Hasson stresses that these residents’ right to visit their holy places would not be harmed and that economic relations between east and west Jerusalem would be preserved.
“I understand that east Jerusalem residents have an important role in Jerusalem’s economy. Under security restrictions they could keep working in Jerusalem,” he said.
Hasson rejected the claims that by this bill he wants to divide Jerusalem, and said that keeping these neighborhoods is the real cause of division.
“All these random checkpoints that are being set up and dismantled by Netanyahu in Jerusalem,” Hasson said, “and these walls inside the city, all the complex security challenges here – they are a true proof that Jerusalem is divided and not united. Only downsizing it to its true size will keep it safe and protected.”