Jerusalem residents doubtful of Annapolis success

"Give them back east Jerusalem... We never go there, and it really won't change anything for us."

kotel and flags 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
kotel and flags 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A few hours before the formal opening of the peace summit in Annapolis, Maryland, jaded Jerusalemites moved from wishful hopes of a significant announcement from the American town, to an old pessimism and dread of another bloody era. "Give them back east Jerusalem. It's theirs. We never go there, and it really won't change anything for us. The worse thing that can happen is that we'll need to present our ID cards when we visit there," Sally, a resident of the capital's Musrara neighborhood, told The Jerusalem Post. Sally, who has lived in Jerusalem for the past 21 years since making aliya from Boston, added that she also wishes for a successful summit because "the occupation keeps [causing us to deteriorate] as a society that deprives the Palestinians of their basic human rights." Sally's point of view was shared by several other passers-by during a street survey conducted Tuesday in Jerusalem, though each one of them had different reasons for wanting this summit to succeed. "I don't believe something will come out of this summit, because no matter what we offer, the Palestinians won't take it - and even if I support splitting Jerusalem, this decision can be decided only via a referendum," said native Jerusalemite and Gilo resident Dani Hadad. "East Jerusalem is not ours, but we pay so much money and support them without even knowing where this money goes... The Arab neighborhoods are a financial burden on us, and in reality, we never visit there. The worn-out slogan 'Jerusalem is united for eternity' is simply an empty motto that must cease to exist." Amit Ben-Artzi, who lives downtown, was also pessimistic about the chances of the summit's success, but expressed a desire for things to go well for a change. "Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like the other side wants to progress. Splitting Jerusalem is ultimately the only solution that can bring us quiet, and besides, the Arab neighborhoods are a burden on us," said Ben-Artzi. Regarding the refugee question, he added that he felt giving Palestinian refugees the right to choose where to live, in Israel or in the Palestinian Authority, was a dignified solution. Rachel, a resident of east Talpiot, also expressed hope that an agreement would be born in Annapolis. "I wish we could get rid of the Arab neighborhoods. I'm also in favor of handing an international authority the responsibility for the city's sacred places while maintaining respectable and convenient access for the Jewish residents... as long as we can maintain our safety," she said. Three teenagers from the neighborhoods of Beit Hakerem and Kiryat Yovel - Eyal, Jonathan and Ran, who attend the Ziv high school together - felt the same, saying they did not mind returning occupied territories if it promoted peace between the two peoples. "Just as long as I don't have to worry about exploding buses and shooting attacks," Ran said. However, there were just as many opponents of the Annapolis summit and the Israeli initiative to split the capital and reach a fundamental agreement with the Palestinians. "This summit will most likely turn into a disaster for the people of Israel. I don't see how something good can come out of it when former summits brought us only terror attacks and bloody streets," said Yitzhak Rosenstein from the haredi neighborhood of Bar Ilan, who made aliya from Detroit three years ago. "Each inch we give away brings us closer to another conflict." Yossi Daskal, a religious resident of the Kiryat Menahem neighborhood, believed the summit would be a success, but hoped the Palestinians wouldn't accede to Israel's offer. "We can't solve this conflict by giving and not getting back. We need to think what is best for us first, best for our security and economy, and then decide how to operate in accordance with these insights. The only problem is that our prime minister tries to get himself out of his personal problems and criminal investigations by shifting the spotlight to heavier issues, and he doesn't care how many people he runs over by doing it. I wouldn't be surprised if this summit brought us eventually mainly terror attacks," Daskal said. And though Rachel, a haredi woman from Givat Shaul, wishes to be proven wrong, she firmly believes a serious and long-term agreement with the Palestinians cannot be reached. "They have a different mentality, and no matter how generous we are, they always want more," Rachel said, adding that splitting Jerusalem was not an idea she rejected out of hand. "Just as long as the new neighbors don't fire at us and Israel can promise that." "There is no basis for an agreement. If [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert offers a compromise, the Israelis will reject it, and if [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] suggests a compromise of his own, the Palestinians will eliminate it," said David of Givat Ze'ev. "I, personally, am not holding my breath. I simply don't believe that a peace with the Palestinians is within reach."