Whose Jerusalem ?

Whose Jerusalem ?

Whose Land ?

Wall Street Journal Editorial:

Don't Redivide Jerusalem

March 4,1997

While international borders are often arbitrary and problematic, history shows that the division ot a vital city between neighboring states creates a most unpleasant situation. Thus, when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, there was more to cheer than the liberation of East Germans from Communism. Yet judging from the reaction of Western governments and diplomats to Israel's decision last Wednesday to construct 6,500 apartments in east Jerusalem, the redivision ot that city would seem to be among their top priorities.

President Clinton, meeting with Yasser Arafat yesterday, chided Israel, saying its action "builds mistrust." U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed opposition to actions that "may impede the final status negotiations." And the EU once again displayed its ignorance of the Middle East by issuing a statement that said it "deeply deplores the decision of the Israeli government to approve construction plans for Har Homa/Jabal abu Ghneim located on the West Bank in the Jerusalem area.

The EU has repeatedly stated that settlements in the occupied territories contravene international law and are a major obstacle to peace. The fact that Jerusalem was long ago annexed by Israel, and is therefore not "occupied territory" like much of the West Bank, seems to have escaped their attention. The EU went on to complain that U.N. resolutions completely forbid the acquisition ot territory by force-a principle that, if taken to its logical conclusion, would invalidate the borders of nearly all U.N. member states (and certainly the entire Middle East), and require the return of East Jerusalem to Jordan, which no longer seems to want it, not to Yasser Arafat.

Of course, anti-Semitism has never been a particularly rational creed. But what is surprising is how many supposedly liberal Westerners have taken to saying in obfuscatory terms-with arch allusions to "facts on the ground" and the like-what some of the Arab demonstrators at Har Homa were saying in uglier, but clearer, language: "No to the Judaization of Jerusalem."

No doubt many of these critics believe they are motivated by the best of intentions: the desire to promote peace. But it is unclear how the cause of peace is served by encouraging Mr. Arafat's rhetoric of racial segregation='east Jerusalem is Arab land"-or Arab hopes for the city that are bound to be disappointed.

Somehow Israel's Western critics seem to have missed the obvious conclusion here:
The decision to build at Har Homa is not a move that will "impede" the final status negotiations, but a clear signal that the redivision of Jerusalem is not considered negotiable by Israel. And in a region where waffling and the false hopes it creates can easily lead to bloodshed, such a move is a welcome step toward peace, not away from it.

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