There can be no Palestinian state without a capital in Arab Jerusalem, with broad access to the rest of that state
Menachem Klein 7 December Haaretz
Ehud Barak was wrong. He minimized the cabinet decision on massive construction in Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim as little more than cold leftovers reheated by Master Chef Bibi. On the eve of the national election, he said, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanted to dress up recycled scraps as a tasty feast for his Likud voters. Don't take him seriously, the defense minister told the Americans.
But the United States and key European countries justifiably view this dish as more like a lasagna - composed in layers and baked slowly. At each stage, Israel places another layer of construction in the area between East Jerusalem and the settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim, to the east. But there can be no Palestinian state without a capital in Arab Jerusalem, with broad access to the rest of that state. And that is exactly what the government of Israel is trying to prevent.
'Greater' Jerusalem showing the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in E.J'lem
The government must explain to the world how it supports establishment of a Palestinian state, on the one hand something Netanyahu again declared in a meeting with German Chancellor Merkel this week, while on the other, it is carving the presumed territory of that state right through its heart. But the Israeli government owes the world and the people of Israel and Jerusalem another explanation as well. And in particular it owes one to the right wing and centrist voters who support the planned construction in principle but may have reservations about the prime minister's timing and style.
If Israel wants to keep East Jerusalem under its sovereignty and, in the event of a peace settlement, also to annex all of Greater Jerusalem, what is it going to do with the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who live there? Let's say this government succeeds where all previous governments failed, and improves the demographic balance in and around Jerusalem in favor of Jews, as a result of settlement construction. There will still be hundreds of thousands of Palestinians residents within Greater Jerusalem. Does Israel intend to give them full citizenship and equality? If that is the plan, why doesn't the government say so? Decency requires it to inform not only the Palestinians, but also all residents of Jerusalem and Israel, that Jerusalem is going to be a de jure Arab-Jewish and egalitarian city - a city of all of its residents and citizens. If that is the price the government is willing to pay for control of all of the territory, it must put that to the public test.
The government's silence, however, indicates that what it really wants is to continue the present situation: to incorporate the territory but not the people who have been living in it for generations. Israel is apparently willing to continue to keep hundreds of thousands of people divided internally in separated neighborhoods and disconnected from the rest of their population and without citizenship.
The Jerusalem Israel has unilaterally created has had two classes of people for almost 50 years: Jewish citizens with a monopoly on the mechanisms of power and over government institutions, and under them, Palestinian residents with temporary status, who systematically receive reduced services and rights in all areas of life. Israeli Jews shape the public space of Jerusalem and prevent the Palestinian minority from expressing its own historic-national narrative in that space.
When Israel built the separation fence in Jerusalem, it expanded the area under its control threefold compared to the annexation lines of 1967. Within the large territory that the fence effectively annexes to Jerusalem, another class has been created, inferior even to East Jerusalemites: Palestinian residents of the West Bank who are not residents of Jerusalem and are not allowed to enter it. Only after Supreme Court intervention and international pressure did Israel pave separate roads and build underground passages so that these people would have access to the cities and villages of the West Bank. The settlers who live adjacent to them on the same tracts of land are connected to Jerusalem by wide highways and can travel to the city freely.
In 1967 Israel wanted to disconnect East Jerusalem from the West Bank. Today its government is doing the opposite by way of construction. It is deepening both the separation it created between the legal status of the Palestinian individual and the status of his land, and the hierarchical separation between the powerful and privileged Jew and the rights-deprived Palestinian who is subservient to him.
This regime is leading us to a historical place that Europe and America have both left behind and with which they do not want to be associated. They are advising us from their experience to leave that place. We should listen to them.
Prof. Menachem Klein is a member of the board of directors of Ir Amim, an NGO dedicated to establishment of an equitable and stable Jerusalem with a negotiated political future.