Don't blame Jerusalem for being multi-cultural

Hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens are not Jewish, yet are loyal to its democratic government.

Jerusalem Arabs 248.88  (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Jerusalem Arabs 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In the wake of the recent bulldozer attacks on Jerusalem streets, some suggest that Israel's expansion of the city's boundaries, granting residency rights to the city's 250,000 Palestinians has been a mistake, should be reversed. The solution, they say, is to shrink Jerusalem's municipal borders so that Palestinians no longer can claim special status as residents of Israel's capital city. Such a "solution" is an insult to the terror victims and to Israel itself. An enraged Palestinian took a front-end loader and smashed cars and bodies a couple of weeks ago, and then another did the same two days ago. The response should be to blame the perpetrator and the culture of terror which dominates so much of Arab society. We should not blame Jerusalem for being a multi-ethnic city, nor should we blame Israel for the policy of granting rights and privileges to minorities in Jerusalem. Hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens are not Jewish and are loyal to the state. The fact that some can't and won't is not the fault of Israel or the municipal borders of Jerusalem. Israel's Jerusalem policies by necessity make room for Arab residents who enjoy a great deal more freedom of movement than their cousins beyond the Green Line. The reason is simple: Jerusalem is different. It is, and will remain, the capital of Israel. If Israel treats Jerusalem, which was unified and expanded after the 1967 war, as just another territory, it will be considered as such by those who place almost all of Judea and Samaria in question. Those prepared to cede parts of Jerusalem, which apparently include members of the Olmert government, cite the bulldozer tragedies and the massacre at Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav as proof that the city's borders are too expansive and must be pulled back. They argue that Jerusalem, with its Arab residents, is Israel's soft underbelly. After all, they say, these attacks did not occur in nearly all-Jewish Tel Aviv. They happened in Jerusalem. THAT CLAIM is outrageous. Jerusalem's prominent role as a target is not an indictment of Jerusalem's security; rather, it suggests the need for greater security efforts. When much of Israel - as well as Jerusalem - was under assault during the second intifada, such heightened efforts, combined with a military offensive and a security barrier, effectively silenced the suicide bombers. Jerusalem hasn't changed. What has changed is that security everywhere has improved dramatically, so that the few attacks in Jerusalem are more prominent. But they do not suggest a new trend. Rather, they are part of the larger problem of Palestinian terror - a problem which must be dealt with by appropriate means, not by surrendering Jerusalem. In fact, that there are not more attacks in Jerusalem is astonishing, considering the proximity of Jewish and Arab neighborhoods and suburbs. But they do not. Jerusalem is different. While Palestinians may never be happy with Israeli sovereignty over the city, they clearly prefer it to the Palestinian Authority, generally regarded as corrupt, feckless, and riddled by violence. THAT SPEAKS to the character of Jerusalem itself - a character which stands as a powerful argument against its re-division. No argument for Jerusalem's status as Israel's eternal and undivided capital is as compelling as its unique nature as a multi-ethnic, multi-faith hub. Muslims, Christians and Jews enjoy full religious freedom in Jerusalem; its neighborhoods, physically so close to each other, require suspension of the normal hostilities held by Palestinians towards Israelis. Of course, Palestinians still harbor animosity towards Jews, and that emerges on occasion in violence and indiscriminate terror. The price of a unified Jerusalem is to live with that threat and to prepare for it at all times. Better that kind of threat than the danger that would come with a unilateral withdrawal. Such a move would permit Palestinian terror cells to operate close to the city's ancient walls with impunity, lobbing rockets and directing sniper fire into all of the city's neighborhoods and public spaces. This would effectively destroy Israel's policy of ensuring open access to the holy sites of all faiths. Those who wish to see Jerusalem remain an open city - never again divided by barbed wire and checkpoints - must recognize that will be the case only so long as Jerusalem remains governed by Israel. No shrinking of Jerusalem, no withdrawal of sovereignty from Arab suburbs and villages, can guarantee the peace of Jerusalem. Only Israel can do that - and in the modern history of the city, only Israel has tried. The writer is director of Public Policy, Union of Orthodox JewishCongregations of America.