Encountering peace: Unlike religious wars, political wars have solutions

There will be no hope, security or peace in Jerusalem until Jerusalem is the capital of two countries – Israel and Palestine.

Protest at Temple Mount, October 15 2013 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Protest at Temple Mount, October 15 2013
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
There are no acceptable excuses for violence and terrorism.
Killing is killing and only leads to more killing. Violence continues in Jerusalem and unfortunately will probably get worse before it gets better. Tuesday’s terror attack in a Jerusalem synagogue steps up hatred, incitement, the sense of hopelessness and fear. Israelis and Palestinians are living in fear in Jerusalem, with good reason.
Israeli and Palestinian leaders – political and religious – must not add fuel to the flames. Instead they must call for calm and an end to the violence. Peace groups in Israel and Palestine – such as the Palestinian Israeli Peace NGO Forum, of which I am a member of the steering committee, and other groups such as the Council of Religious Leaders of the Holy Land must call for gatherings of Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem to demonstrate civil society support for peace in Jerusalem – two capitals in Jerusalem for two states. The Council published a very good statement denouncing the attack. I am willing to stand as a guard in Palestinian neighborhoods in east Jerusalem to protect kindergartens and mosques there against potential vigilante violence. I call for Palestinians from east Jerusalem to stand as guards in front of Jewish kindergartens and synagogues in west Jerusalem.
Yoram Cohen, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head, stated to MKs that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is not inciting to violence. In fact, he said, Abbas and the PA are opposed to violence and are fighting against it.
Despite that, right-wing Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, continue to incite against Abbas and the PA. The PA has no responsibility or authority in Jerusalem. PA police forces cannot work in Jerusalem – Israel does not allow them to enter the city. Palestinian intelligence services are not allowed to gather intelligence in Jerusalem. I remind the readers that the information regarding the murderers of the three teens from Gush Etzion came from Palestinian intelligence.
Jerusalem is a divided city and is a demonstration of the horrors of a bi-national reality under Israel control. Palestinian neighborhoods of east Jerusalem have never been fully integrated into the “united city.” The only real services that Palestinian neighborhoods in east Jerusalem receive are those of the Border Police arresting suspects, closing neighborhoods (now with additional walls and checkpoints), as well as house demolitions and taxation.
80 percent of east Jerusalem Palestinians live under the poverty line. Whole neighborhoods of east Jerusalem are on the other side of the separation wall while continuing to hold Israeli identity cards. East Jerusalem Palestinians lives under the constant threat of having their residency statues removed from them as thousands have since 1967. They hold Israeli ID cards but their status is under the law of “entering Israel” – when in fact it is Israel that entered to them.
No Palestinian in east Jerusalem has a sense of security regarding their right to live in their own city. If they marry a Palestinian from the West Bank, the Israeli government does not allow them to live together in Jerusalem – they must reside in the West Bank and then the Jerusalem resident the right to live in Jerusalem. They must constantly prove that Jerusalem is the center of their lives. If not, they lose the right to live there.
The political and economic problems of east Jerusalem have been building over the past decades and getting worse, not better.
There is deep discrimination against Palestinian east Jerusalem by Israeli institutions and the government. The right-wing mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, incites against Palestinians, and continues to build not just in the Jewish neighborhoods beyond the Green Line (which are officially settlements according to international law) but also deep inside of Palestinian neighborhoods, aiming at preventing a political solution at some time in the future. Palestinian east Jerusalem is cut off from Palestine and they are not part of Israel. There are no functioning Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem and no clear Palestinian leadership in Jerusalem to talk to. Much of this as a result of Israeli policies.
Jerusalem is a divided city, now more than ever. And to this, add the flames of provocations on the Haram a-Sharif/Temple Mount. Palestinians simply do not believe the Israeli promises that the status quo on the Haram a-Sharif/Temple Mount will remain. They see Israel cutting the Mount off from Palestine, preventing Muslims from having the ability to worship there.
They believe that the plans Hamas and the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement speak of regarding Israel’s intent to build a place for Jewish worship on the Mount, or in the mosque, are true. They genuinely believe that al-Aksa is in danger.
Despite the fact that the Temple Mount is the holiest place for Jews in the world, because of political and religious realities and sensitivities, Jews who want to pray there simply have to wait for the Messiah or at least until there is real and secure peace and the issue can be spoken about rationally without threats and fears of Jewish plans to destroy the mosques. The majority of the rabbinic authorities in Israel and around the world agree with this.
Netanyahu’s poodle Ofir Akunis said today that there can be no political horizon with the Palestinians and that we need only a “security horizon.” With Netanyahu there is no political horizon and no hope, this is clear. As long as he is in power there will be no security either. Netanyahu’s policies and his lack of any vision or initiative for peace endanger Israelis – this is also clear.
In previous elections Netanayhu screamed that Shimon Peres would divide Jerusalem – he said there is no security in Jerusalem and Peres is responsible. Well, Netanyahu, today you are the boss – and have been for a long time. There is no hope in Jerusalem, there is no security in Jerusalem and there is no peace in Jerusalem.
There will be no hope, security or peace in Jerusalem until Jerusalem is the capital of two countries – Israel and Palestine.
One open city living in peace and recognized by the world as the capitals of Israel and Palestine – that is the formula. It is possible to get there, with all of the difficulties. There are political solutions for Jerusalem that will increase security for Israelis and Palestinians. These will remain possible as long as we prevent the war between Israel and Palestine from becoming a war between Judaism and Islam. When a political war becomes a religious war, the chances for compromise and understand wither away very quickly. We cannot allow that to happen.
The author is co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Schalit. His new book Freeing Gilad: the Secret Back Channel has been published by Kinneret Zmora Bitan in Hebrew and as The Negotiator: Freeing Gilad Schalit from Hamas by The Toby Press.