Paris v. unified Jerusalem

According to the French, threats to peace negotiations come from a complete and unified Jerusalem.

City of Jerusalem 370 USE ID 210596 instead (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
City of Jerusalem 370 USE ID 210596 instead
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
A recent headline in The Jerusalem Post from Paris read, “Settlement projects call into question Israel’s commitment to peace.”  The French note went on to criticize the creation of new housing units in Jerusalem, saying that this move was “illegal” and “threatens the state solution whereby Jerusalem is destined to become the capital of both Israel and Palestine.” An astonishing statement for various reasons, the French prove themselves ignorant and hypocritical in their flip-flop stance towards the Jewish state.
First, it seems that the French Foreign Ministry is waking up only now that Israel has its own construction program in Jerusalem when in fact, that program began after the Six Day War in 1967. Secondly, sovereign Paris is apparently telling sovereign Jerusalem that it must allow itself to be divided. Jerusalem, it should be noted, was the capital of Israel centuries before Paris was even a dot on the map. Thirdly, Paris unilaterally asserts that Israel’s construction program is “illegal.” Of course, Israel has its own unilateral viewpoint declaring that its position is fully consistent with international law and that it has sovereign rights in Jerusalem superior to those of any other entity.
Israel’s position is premised not only on historical grounds, but on legal and security considerations that cannot be dismissed. Leading authorities in international law confirmed, that with the ejection of the belligerent Jordanian forces from Jerusalem in Israel’s defensive war in 1967, Jerusalem in its entirety came under exclusive Israeli sovereignty. Security Resolution 242, which called for negotiations to resolve the Arab-Israeli dispute, made no reference to Jerusalem (even as it made no reference to any obligation on Israel to accept Arab refugees). This is fully consistent with international law since, as the great British judge on the International Court of Justice, Sir Gerald Fitzmaurice, said:  Even the Security Council is not empowered to effect legal changes “in territorial rights, whether of sovereignty or administration. [The Security Council] was [set up] to keep the peace, not to change the world order.” 
Israel’s position draws on the well-known adage of Abraham Lincoln, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” A divided capital city can certainly not survive.  Former Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek said, “Divided sovereignty in a united city…simply cannot work, the proposition is a contradiction. Two legal systems? Two police forces?  The barbed wire and the mines would soon return.”
It is often forgotten that for nineteen years Israelis and Jews were denied access to the holiest sites in the Jewish faith, this seared the national consciousness. After Jerusalem came under Israeli control in 1967, then minister for defense Moshe Dayan said, “The Israel Defense Forces have liberated Jerusalem. We have reunited the torn city, the capital of Israel. We have returned to this most sacred shrine, never to part from it again.” In the intervening years, nothing has occurred to modify Israel’s resolve to remain master of its own house.
It is worth recalling that at the 1978 Camp David Accords, prime minister Menachem Begin was prepared to ditch the entire agreement when he learned US president Jimmy Carter was contemplating giving Egyptian president Anwar Sadat a separate letter that implied the sovereignty of Jerusalem was divisible. The crisis was only resolved by deciding that in place of the Jerusalem clause in the text of the agreement, each head of state would append a letter defining the position of his country on the issue of Jerusalem. The American letter was sufficiently ambiguous that Begin could accept it. Moreover, although the Oslo agreement stipulated that Jerusalem is to be one of the subjects of the final status talks, according to President Shimon Peres, this related only to issues of religion in Jerusalem, not to questions of sovereignty. Israel would not allow a Berlin Wall to be erected in the heart of Jerusalem, said Peres.
But perhaps the most amazing aspect of the French statement is the questioning of Israel’s commitment to peace. It is as if Israel, for 65 years, has resided in a tranquil state and that only by its present actions disturbs this idyllic peace. The French statement blots out the four major wars instigated by Arab aggression, and countless casualties inflicted by terrorists, while Israel’s hand was outstretched for a peaceful resolution from day one. Proposing the division of a capital city is anything but a step toward peace. It would endanger the entire Israeli Yishuv in Jerusalem and its environs. Jerusalem, complete and united, is Israel’s capital, as was affirmed by the 1980 law overwhelmingly adopted by the Knesset. Any construction launched today simply confirms and perpetuates that state of affairs. The experience of the past 35 years, when freedom of access was assured to the adherents of all faiths, demonstrates that a united Jerusalem is not an impediment to peace, but rather its guarantor.
The writer is professor emeritus at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the author of  Jerusalem in America’s Foreign Policy.