A divided Jerusalem?

I attended a parlor talk in Jerusalem yesterday by Israeli MK, Danny Danon.

Danon, in addition to being Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, is also Chairman of the World Likud Party, and an ardent promoter of the position that – in any final status agreement with the Palestinians – Jerusalem should never be divided.  Such an argument is especially relevant in the context of the current negotiations in Washington between Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu.

He made the argument that – though he was opposed to the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza – one good thing about Sharon’s disengagement was that it proved that the  “land for peace” formula (contrary to popular opinion) is nothing n more than a chimera. Indeed (in light of the consequences of Israel’s withdraw from Gaza, as well as Southern Lebanon), even the most neutral observer couldn’t possibly argue that such withdrawals invariably lead to peace, or lessen the appeal of belligerent terrorist groups.

Danon’s position regarding Jerusalem is based on the following arguments.

Jewish Rights: Jerusalem was the capital of a Jewish state for the better part of a millennium – but never once of an Arab or Muslim country.

Population: Jews have been a majority in Jerusalem for over 170 years.  There are over 200,000 Jews living in eastern Jerusalem, nearly half of all Jerusalem Jews.

Religious Freedom: Under Jordanian control, synagogues and other holy sites in Jerusalem were destroyed, an d Jews were denied access  – as the PA attempts to do today.  But when Israel took charge, it enacted and faithfully observed a Knesset law stipulating that the “places holy to the peoples of all religions shall be protected from any desecration and from any restriction of free access to them”.

Security Dangers:  Decades of Arab Muslim and Palestinian violence in Jerusalem have included lethal terror attacks on buses and in restaurants, Temple Mount riots and stoning of Temple Mount worshipers, shootings, stabbings, and bombs.  Giving Jerusalem neighborhoods over to PA control will wet terrorist appetites and will geometrically increase citizens exposure to such dangers.

Demographics:  The division of Jerusalem is liable to lead to the exodus of tens of thousands of Jews from the city, as well as the move of a similar number of Arabs to the Israeli side of Jerusalem – a two-way trend that has already partially begun in apprehension of future division.

Though I’m not, in principle, opposed to the idea of a two-state solution which would include the division of Jerusalem, the security risks weigh most heavily on me.  As a Jerusalem resident, I would certainly fear the possibility that a sovereign Palestinian state – which included a capital in East Jerusalem – could eventually lead to a Hamas coup (like what happened in Gaza in 2007).  Indeed, Hamas control (or even presence) in Jerusalem would create the  very real danger of rockets being fired into – among other places – Ben Gurion International Airport, West Jerusalem neighborhoods, and the Israeli Knesset.

Danon’s position may seem unreasonable to many viewing the situation as an abstraction from afar. However, those of us who would be forced to live with the the very real world consequences of such a solution are, I believe, quite justified in our fears that the division of Jerusalem could create a dynamic leading to rocket fire (and other lethal terrorist attacks) targeting our families and communities.  I really don’t think that’s an unreasonable concern.

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