Jerusalem: irreconcilable rival claims…

Article from May 2005 on how irreconcilable the dispute over Jerusalem is:


Eliminating any chance of a state

By Danny Rubinstein

In the summer of 2001, less than four years ago, the Israeli government issued an order to shut down the Palestine Liberation Organization offices in Orient House in East Jerusalem. The offices had been operating with Israel’s consent since the beginning of the peace process and in keeping with the Oslo agreement. They were run by Faisal al-Husseini, who held the PLO’s Jerusalem portfolio and died a few weeks before they were closed down.Perhaps the most important department in the Orient House was the one in charge of preserving and developing the Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem. The Palestinian national movement always placed the Jerusalem issue at the center of its being, and after 1967 Al-Husseini used to say that “we cannot liberate Jerusalem with tanks.” He meant that the Palestinian public should take nonviolent action to protect its properties in the city.During the office’s closure, Israel’s defense establishment confiscated numerous documents, which the Palestinians now say Israel exploited to take over more properties in East Jerusalem. The Orient House papers consisted of Palestinian ideas, data and plans to develop what they considered as areas threatened by a Jewish takeover. One of these areas was the Jaffa Gate plaza, for which the Palestinians had prepared plans. They found foreign investors who were thinking of investing in the property and even the king of Morocco, who is the chairman of the Islamic states’ Jerusalem committee, was advised about developments.

Israel saw this as hostile activity and used the documents to achieve the opposite goal – of downsizing the Palestinian presence in the city.On the 38th anniversary of Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, some 230,000 people live in the Jewish neighborhoods that were built beyond the `67 borders – such as French Hill, Gilo, Ramot, Pisgat Ze’ev and Ma’aleh Adumim – about the same as the city’s Arab population.In the Old City, however, the Palestinians far outnumber the Jews. There are some 32,000 Arabs and only some 4,000 Jews within the Old City’s walls. Most of the Jews reside in the Jewish Quarter and a few, about 1,000 or more, live in 70 buildings that were seized and purchased in the Muslim and Christian quarters, as well as in the adjacent Arab neighborhoods Silwan, Musrara, Sheikh Jarrah, Ras al-Amud and the Mount of Olives.From the Palestinians’ point of view, expanding the Jewish hold on the eastern part of the city and completing the separation wall means the perpetuation of the violent conflict. If the Israeli public agrees that recognizing the right of return means liquidating the Jewish state – so it is universally acknowledged among the Palestinians that the “Judaization of Jerusalem,” as they call it, means eliminating the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state. In other words, without Jerusalem there is no Palestinian state and no solution.The Jewish activity in East Jerusalem is at the top of the Palestinian order of priorities. In the last few days, for example, the Palestinian media has been reporting extensively about radical Jews going to the Temple Mount (on the weekend, hundreds led by Rabbi Dov Lior of Kiryat Arba entered the Al-Aqsa plaza) and of demonstrations against Greek Orthodox Patriarch Irineos, who sold properties at Jaffa Gate to the Jews.

It could therefore be said with a large degree of certainty that Mahmoud Abbas’ leadership would be capable of coping with internal and external difficulties in the near future. However, it does not have much chance of surviving if Israel continues to establish “facts on the ground” in East Jerusalem, which will leave no room for negotiations over the city’s future

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