Peace in Jerusalem

The Jewish people have not given up hope of one day living side by side with the Palestinians in peace or “Shalom,” one of the meanings of the word “Jerusalem.”

Jerusalem's Old City walls 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Jerusalem's Old City walls 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
“This morning, the IDF liberated Jerusalem. We have united Jerusalem, the divided capital of Israel. We have returned to the holiest of our holy places, never to part from it again. To our Arab neighbors we extend, also at this hour – and with added emphasis at this hour – our hand in peace. And to our Christian and Muslim fellow citizens, we solemnly promise full religious freedom and rights.”

– Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, the afternoon of June 7 [28, Iyar], 1967, at the Western Wall.
In the 44 years since Dayan made this declaration, consecutive Israeli governments have put his main points into practice. Reflecting broad Israeli Jewish support, the Knesset in 1980 passed the Jerusalem Law, which declared that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel,” (though this declaration was declared “null and void” by United Nations Security Council Resolution 478).
The Chief Rabbinate declared Jerusalem Day a holiday to thank God for the military victory and for answering the 2,000-year-old prayer “Next Year in Jerusalem.”
For the first time in history full religious freedom to worship, never respected under Muslim rule, was extended to all three monotheistic religions – Christianity, Islam and Judaism alike – out of respect for the unique bonds each of these faiths has with Jerusalem’s unique landscape (though Judaism’s ties are by far the most profound and central to practice and belief).
And Jewish Israelis’ enormous satisfaction at having sovereignty over Jerusalem for the first time since 70 CE, clearly reflected in polls that consistently show a majority opposed to partition, has not prevented consecutive governments over the years from extending their hands in peace and offering far-reaching territorial concession in Jerusalem in exchange for an end to the conflict.
In 2000, prime minister Ehud Barak offered Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat far-reaching compromises, including the partition of Jerusalem, which would be shared by Palestinians and Israelis. This unprecedented offer was rejected outright by Arafat, who proceeded to launch the second intifada.
In 2008, prime minister Ehud Olmert made an even more generous offer to PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Also proposing the partition of Jerusalem, this offer would have placed under international control the “holy basin,” a geographic area that contains the major holy sites of the three monotheistic religions. Abbas never returned to Olmert with a definitive answer.
In April of last year during an interview with Channel 2, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu drew a distinction between Jerusalem’s post-1967 Jewish neighborhoods and its Arab neighborhoods, and he specified that the permanent fate of the Arab neighborhoods was indeed a subject for final-status discussion with the Palestinians – a position that had been frequently espoused by Kadima (Olmert) and Labor (Barak), but not normally by the Likud. Though he rejected the idea of giving up consensus Jewish neighborhoods located over the Green Line such as Ramat Shlomo and French Hill, Netanyahu called “legitimate” the consideration of ceding Arab neighborhoods such as Abu Dis and Shuafat to a future Palestinian state. “No one,” he elaborated referring to Jewish Israelis, “wants to add a greater Arab populace to Jerusalem.”
Still, he went on, there were some who worried that “if you get out of there,” Islamist Iran would fill the vacuum in one guise or another, as it had done in Lebanon with Hezbollah and in Gaza with the Hamas. “If we get out of [the Arab neighborhoods of east] Jerusalem, Iran might come in. That's [a] legitimate [concern],” said Netanyahu.
Already several Arab neighborhoods, technically belonging to the Jerusalem Municipality, are effectively “partitioned” by the security barrier.
IN BOTH words and deeds Israelis have shown a willingness to compromise in a city so uniquely and centrally resonant with Jewish history and tradition and to which so many Jews feel such profound ties. Yet each of the overtures to peace on the Israeli side, even those so far-reaching that many – perhaps most – Jewish Israelis would be loathe to back them, have been rejected by the Palestinians.
A basic refusal on the Palestinian side to accept the Jewish people’s unique connection to Jerusalem, and to other historic sites throughout Judea and Samaria that also came under Jewish control in the wake of the Six Day War, appears to lie at the heart of Palestinian rejectionism.
Like Dayan 44 years ago, who at the height of Jewish euphoria at the unification of Jerusalem did not lose sight of a chance for peace, the Jewish people have not given up hope of one day living side by side with the Palestinians in peace or “Shalom,” one of the meanings of the word “Jerusalem.”
That day can only come, however, after the Palestinians abandon the rejectionism – so insistently ignored by too much of the international community – that sees them continuing to give every sign of refusing to internalize the Jews’ sovereign legitimacy anywhere in this land, no matter how far-reaching the Israeli offers of compromise.