Whose Jerusalem ?

Whose Jerusalem ?

Whose Land ?

Jerusalem Must Be Liberated Again

Tuesday, March 6, 2001
By Nadav Shragai


In the midst of the first Intifada, then-police commissioner David Kraus called a meeting of senior Israeli police commanders and - in what later turned out to be an amalgam of naivete and a little pathos - declared, "What we are about to do is to liberate Jerusalem again." At the time, Israelis thought the situation could not get any worse: Traveling by vehicle through East Jerusalem was a real problem, as rocks and Molotov cocktails were being hurled at them. However, firearms were not being used.In the reality of March 2001, the "reliberation of Jerusalem" is an infinitely more difficult task. Nonetheless, responsibility for attaining that goal cannot be shirked by Jews, especially by Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon, who presented his vision of a united Jerusalem as an antithesis to the plan for partitioning the city that had been agreed to by outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

The most important asset that Israel has lost in East Jerusalem is control of security matters in that part of the city. Palestinian security services and the "civilian" police of the governor of East Jerusalem, Jamil Othman (also known as Abu Nasser), who was appointed to this post by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and whose offices are in Abu Dis, operate in East Jerusalem almost openly. East Jerusalem's Arab residents regard these agencies as the "law" and as having the same status as - usually, higher status than - the Israeli police.

Operating in parallel to Israeli security services and law-enforcement agencies in East Jerusalem is a comprehensive security and law-enforcement mechanism that is being run by the Palestinians and which engages in a variety of activities: Intelligence work, abductions, interrogations, bodyguard services, arbitration and patrols. Any Arab East Jerusalemite who dares to ask for the assistance of the Israeli police is invariably threatened by the representatives of this Palestinian police-cum-security mechanism. According to the assessment of Israeli security experts, it is just a question of time before the active collaboration of the PA's security services in the violence unfolding on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip spreads to Jerusalem. The two recent shooting incidents at the French Hill intersection corroborate this evaluation.

However, even if the anticipated collaboration of PA security services in terrorist activities directed against Israelis does not materialize, the time has arrived, so it would seem, to once again draw the boundary lines between what is permissible and what is not in Jerusalem. There is no possible justification for making peace with the PA's present security operations in that city. From the formal standpoint, these operations are a violation of agreements that Israel has signed with the PA. Even the cooperative relationship in the field of intelligence between Palestinian and Israeli security services - a relationship that, from the very beginning, probably did not justify the price (namely, the erosion of Israeli sovereignty in East Jerusalem) - has deteriorated in quality. And that is definitely an underestimate.

The removal of Palestinian security services from East Jerusalem will be no easy task. However, it must be done if the vision of a reunification of Jerusalem is to be realized. It is absurd for a single capital city to have two parallel police forces, two parallel internal security agencies and two parallel intelligence mechanisms. The thousands of individuals carrying out police and security work on behalf of the PA in East Jerusalem must not be allowed to continue these activities any further. If their continued presence would make it futile for Israel to attempt to put a halt to their work, then they must be removed from this part of the city, even at the cost of curfews, closures and encirclement in Jerusalem itself.

In the final analysis, even Arab East Jerusalemite - many of whom are frightened to death at the prospect of living under PA jurisdiction - would actually be grateful if Israel were to take such actions. Nonetheless, the carrying out of this difficult task cannot be an isolated operation. Barak and outgoing Public Security Minister and Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami gave broad hints of their plans for partitioning Jerusalem well before they led the government to decide on dividing up the city. As early as last summer, it became evident that the Barak government had stopped transferring funds for the development of infrastructures and services in East Jerusalem. This was a dramatic about-face, in stark contrast with the policies of the government headed by Barak's predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, which - after years of deprivation and neglect - increased by several hundred percentage points the financial allocations to East Jerusalem.

The Barak government's freeze on cash transfers to East Jerusalem delivered an obvious message to each of its Arab residents: "Dear resident of East Jerusalem, Israel's presence in East Jerusalem is temporary and, thus, it is not in Israel's interests to invest in you."

A month before it was toppled, the Netanyahu government made a series of wise decisions regarding East Jerusalem. The Sharon government now has all the time in the world to implement them. This is a far easier task than banishing Jibril Rajoub, head of preventive security for the PA on the West Bank, and his personnel. All that the Sharon cabinet has to do is to pave roads, install street lamps and sewage systems, and set up public parks - in short, to begin acting as if East Jerusalem were really under Israeli sovereignty.

Finally - or perhaps it should be said: To begin with - Israel owes it to itself to make a major effort to change the situation on the Temple Mount. What is taking place today there delivers an ethical and moral message not only to the Palestinian population in the territories but also to the Jewish population in the Land of Israel. Israel cannot continue to put up with the ban on visits by Jews to the Temple Mount. The government has the tools (which have been used before) to force the Waqf (Moslem Religious Trust) and the PA to open the gates of the Temple Mount to non-Muslims as well as to Muslims. For example, the government has the authority to prevent Muslims from entering the Temple Mount.

The Antiquities Authority must also return to the Temple Mount in order to stop the continued destruction of the antiquities there. What has been happening over the past few months on the Temple Mount should make all intelligent persons indignant, especially Jews, when the relics of the Jewish past are slowly but surely being erased at Judaism's holiest site. The exercising of the right of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount can be delayed for awhile - until a new reality has stabilized itself there. Israel must adopt a unique policy toward the Temple Mount, which is part of the time-honored traditions of a nation whose existence has been molded and protected by Jerusalem, rather than the other way around. This heritage compels Israel to teach the love of Jerusalem even in the nation's schools. The Palestinians have no qualms about expressing love for their Zion; there is certainly no reason why Jews should hide the love they feel for theirs

©2001 - Haaretz

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