Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should be commended for standing up in the political sphere for our right to an undivided Jerusalem.
Unlike his predecessors – Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert – Netanyahu never agreed to divide the capital of Israel in negotiations with the Palestinians.
But Jerusalem’s future might not be decided on the battlefield or around a negotiating table. As I suggested recently at the Jerusalem Post Conference in New York, the battle for Jerusalem will be determined by the facts on the ground.
And what are the facts on the ground? Every year, the Jewish majority in the capital shrinks. On the one hand, there is plenty of construction by Arabs, mostly illegal and uncontrolled. On the other hand, there is an almost complete de facto freeze on Jewish building in Jerusalem.
The decision by the government this week to approve construction for Arab residents in Beit Safafa, while at the same time refraining from advancing requests from Jews who wanted to build homes in nearby Givat Hamatos, is just one example of this extremely dangerous trend.
The Palestinians’ goal is quite clear: to create territorial continuity from Jerusalem to Bethlehem on one side and from Jerusalem to Ramallah on the other.
For years now there has been a negative migration of Jews from Jerusalem. Every year, 18,000 Jews leave the city, and only 10,000 move into Jerusalem.
There is a great shortage of housing, and this is the reason why apartment prices are so high.
The demographic trend is clear: In 1967, after Jerusalem was reunified following the Six Day War, 74 percent of the population was Jewish and 26% was Arab. Today, Jews make up only 62% of Jerusalem, and the Arab minority has grown to 38%.
The situation on the ground is changing for the worse every single day. If this trend continues at the current rate, the number of Jews and Arabs in the capital will be equal in only 15 years.
And yet this war is being waged in silence, with almost no media coverage or public awareness. The painful truth is that we are losing a little bit of Jerusalem every day.
It is time to act! If we do nothing, one day we will wake up and Jerusalem will no longer be in our hands. There is only one solution: build! Build in Jerusalem now. Build in Jerusalem despite international pressure. We must at least double the number of housing starts in the capital, from 2,000 to 4,000 per year.
I call on US presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to announce their support for Israel’s right to build in its unified capital: Jerusalem.
I urge them to declare that the next US administration will not exercise any pressure on Israel regarding its right to build in Jerusalem.
Israel must build now on a large scale. This is the only way to ensure that Jerusalem will retain a Jewish majority for generations to come.
Now is the time to act! The writer is a former government minister who served as a member of the Inner Security Cabinet. He is currently a senior fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS).