Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat spoke with rabbis from the national-religious
community this week in an effort to garner support for a land swap that would
relinquish parts of the city.
RELATED:Jerusalem will never be divided, says Barkat
In a speech at a National Defense College
alumni event last week, Barkat suggested that small parts of municipal Jerusalem
that lie on the Palestinian Authority side of the security barrier should be
under the PA’s jurisdiction rather than that of the municipality, which has
trouble providing services and accessing those areas due to the security
Other areas on the Jerusalem side of the fence that belong to
the PA, which are nearly equal in area, would be annexed in the land swap.
On Wednesday, Barkat reportedly met with Rabbi Shlomo Aviner of the Ateret
Kohanim Yeshiva, and on Thursday with the Or Etzion Yeshiva’s Rabbi Haim
Druckman. Druckman expressed support for the proposal, according to
Approximately 60,000 Jerusalem residents live on the PA
side of the barrier in municipal Jerusalem, in five major neighborhoods of Kafr
Akab, the Shuafat refugee camp, Semiramis, Zughayer and
Additionally, around 20,000 Palestinians live in small pockets of
land on the Israeli side of the barrier, in “Area B,” which is under Israeli
security and PA civilian control.
The idea is to annex the Area B parts
and give up the parts of Jerusalem outside the barrier. According to a municipal
source familiar with the project, the exchange would result in a very small
territorial gain for Jerusalem, with a loss of approximately 40,000 Arab
Deputy Mayor David Hadari, who holds the economic portfolio,
slammed Barkat’s suggestion.
“I am totally against giving up on any part
of Jerusalem; it doesn’t matter what side of the fence that it’s on,” he
declared on Thursday. “There are borders in Jerusalem, and we’ll guard these
borders with all the power we have.”
He said he wasn’t worried about the
capital’s borders changing any time soon, because a two-thirds majority of the
Knesset is required to approve any changes to the municipal borders – something
the deputy mayor said was unlikely.
“[Barkat] thinks this is the way to
strengthen Jerusalem, but I think he’s wrong,” Hadari said.
Arabs who live in Jerusalem neighborhoods on the eastern side of the security
barrier are supposed to receive the same services – including trash, sewage and
water – as the rest of the city, though the reality is different.
neighborhoods are under the jurisdiction of the Israel Police, but the police
barely enter these neighborhoods due to security concerns.
forces are forbidden to enter the neighborhoods under the Oslo
Gadi Baltiansky, the directorgeneral of the Geneva Accords
headquarters in Tel Aviv, welcomed Barkat’s idea of dividing
“Even before the election, Nir Barkat understands that when he
talks about a ‘united Jerusalem,’ that it actually needs to be divided,”
Baltiansky said. But he warned that any decisions would need to be made in
cooperation with the residents.
The majority of Jerusalem Arabs on the
outside of the barrier want to stay part of Jerusalem, and most Palestinians on
the inside want to stay part of the PA. Many residents on the PA side work and
send their children to school inside Jerusalem.
“[Barkat’s plan] is not a
successful solution,” Baltiansky asserted. “A successful situation is with a
separate Palestinian state.”