If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem...

Daniel Seidemann, the author of "The Myth of Undivided Jerusalem," published by The Atlantic, is the founder of Terrestrial Jerusalem, an "Israeli" non-governmental organization that works to prevent developments, even if good for the city's residents, from taking place if said developments leave the city indivisible.  The top three donors of this NGO are The Norwegian Foreign Ministry, The Swiss Foreign Ministry, and The British Foreign Ministry -- all of whom want Jerusalem divided -- according to the organization's own website.

The article is part of the effort of The S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace to "help reach a just and comprehensive peace that will bring an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict."

As laudable as the search for peace is, many would argue, as I do, that agreeing to the terms of the PA -- or the EU, for that matter, not to mention Hamas -- would not result in peace in our time any more than such wrangling did in Chamberlain's time.  Furthermore, advocating for "peace" presupposes that the PA, to say nothing of Hamas, would sign an end-of-conflict agreement, abandon the so-called right of return, and recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people.  Their charter and their leaders say otherwise.  Thus, an end-of-conflict peace agreement is unattainable and should be replaced by a more realistic goal.

Seidemann begins by affirming the attachment of the Jews to Jerusalem:

The Jewish attachment to Jerusalem is incontestable. For millennia, Jerusalem has been central to Jewish identity in the Diaspora; since the birth of the state of Israel, the importance of contemporary Jerusalem as Israel's capital has become part of the ethos shared by Israelis and Jews around the world. Jewish attachments to Jerusalem are embodied both in the religious and historic sites in and around the Old City and in the modern Israeli city that has been built beyond its ramparts in the past century.

The same cannot be said for the Muslims or even the Christians.  Because Jerusalem is so central to Judaism, and because Jews have prayed for 2,000 years for the return to Jerusalem, and because Jews have shed considerable blood when losing it and when regaining it, it is beyond comprehension to think that the Jews would squander the city -- or that anyone would demand that they do so.

But Seidemann does.  And so do the Obama administration and the EU.

Seidemann is wrong to suggest that Israel's policies are unsustainable or "embody an exclusionary vision of Jewish Jerusalem, ignoring the complexity of the city and its universal importance" and to suggest that Israel has implemented "a planning and zoning regime that limits Palestinian construction to a bare minimum."

In fact, Seidemann's testimony is libelous.  Israel is planning for a united Jerusalem in which the Arabs represent 40% of the population, which is far from "exclusionary."  Only by keeping it united under one administration can one take into account the complexity of the city.  What is unsustainable is a city frozen in time but not governed in a way that unites it even more.

Seideman also accuses Israel of effectively barring Palestinian "immigration" into East Jerusalem.  And why not?  It has been annexed to Israel since 1967.

A little bit of history is in order.  The Jews constituted a majority of the residents in Jerusalem during the hundred years preceding the creation of Israel in 1948.  In 1947, the UNGA passed Res. 181, which recommended a two-state solution and suggested that Jerusalem, according to the boundaries therein set out, be a Corpus Separatum, a separated city, administered by the U.N., for an interval of ten years, after which the city's status was to be redetermined by referendum.  The Jews were confident that they would win the referendum.

Six months later, the State of Israel was declared within the boundaries laid out by said resolution.  The surrounding Arab countries rejected this resolution and invaded Israel with the intention of destroying it and massacring the Jews living therein.  This war ended in 1949 with an armistice agreement which defined the ceasefire line with a green pencil, and thus we have the "green line."  As a result of the war, the referendum was never held, and Jerusalem became a divided city, with a no-man's-land separating both sides.

And so it remained until the Six-Day War in 1967, initiated by the surrounding Arab countries.  Israel was victorious and conquered all of Judea and Samaria, including Jerusalem inter alia.  Seventeen days later, Israel redrew the boundaries of Jerusalem to include 70 square kilometers of the conquered land lying to the north, east, and south of Jerusalem.  She did so because she wanted to make Jerusalem defensible and because it was her right.  After all, the Mandate gave Jews the right to reconstitute their homeland in the land then called Palestine and to settle in all parts of it.

Seidemann now wants Jerusalem to once again be divided as if that was a good or workable thing in the first place.  You will recall that the Communists had to build a wall through the middle of Berlin to keep it divided, and you will recall how the world and the residents rejoiced after Berlin's reunification.  A divided city is an abomination and an administrative nightmare.

Ir Amim reports:

70,000 Palestinians lived in the annexed territory in 1967, and found themselves under Israeli rule. Israel offered these residents citizenship, which was rejected collectively. [...] Therefore, the residents of East Jerusalem received the status of permanent residents of Israel[.]

After the annexation of 1967, 70,000 Palestinians held blue identity cards; at the beginning of 2010 the number was estimated at 300,000. In 1967 they constituted 25% of the total population of the "united" Jerusalem, now they constitute more than 35%. At the current rate of growth, their share in the total population of the capital of Israel will be 40% by 2020, according to accepted projections.

It is important to note that Israel did not expel these Arabs and instead offered them citizenship.  They collectively refused citizenship, and so Israel offered them legal residency with blue cards entitling them to many benefits.  Now they constitute about 35% of Jerusalem's legal residents.  In 9 years, the figure is expected to reach 40%.  This flies in the face of Seidemann's allegations above noted. 

The recent polls, which Seideman dismisses without evidence as "problematic," support Arab preference for Israel.

This poll was conducted by American Pechter Middle East Polls for the Council on Foreign Relations together with the head of the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion.

YNET reported:

[This poll] showed that if Jerusalem were divided as part of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, east Jerusalem Arabs would prefer to live under Israeli sovereignty and that their opposition to Jerusalem's division is so intense that they would rather move to a new home within Israel's borders rather than live under the authority of a Palestinian state.  

The study also showed that Jerusalem's Palestinian residents were interested in keeping their Israeli Identity cards and enjoying the State's health and social benefits. Some 35% of them said that Israeli citizenship is their preferred citizenship and only 30% chose to be citizens of the future Palestinian state. An additional 30% said that they didn't know, or preferred not to answer the question.

Seidemann complains that "Israel still does not provide most normal services or even build sufficient classrooms in much of East Jerusalem."  While this has been true, Seidemann ignores the fact that Jerusalem has begun correcting the matter.  Just last month, Israel21C reported:

When the 2011-2012 school year began in the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, millions of shekels in sparkling new or renewed classrooms, computers and sports facilities greeted 42,153 students and their teachers.

The mayor and municipal professionals work regularly with members of the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem through the leadership of the community centers as well as organized groups of residents such as the Mayor's Forum of Eastern Jerusalem Principals and the Mayor's Forum for Welfare in Eastern Jerusalem," Miller tells ISRAEL21c.

New schools, including approximately 200 classrooms, have been built in the eastern part of the city. The municipality is currently investing the unprecedented sum of NIS 300 million (about $69 million) in the planning and construction of 285 additional new classrooms for Arab schoolchildren.

New classrooms wouldn't be as valuable without updated equipment inside them. So with the assistance of Israeli branches of companies such as Ernst & Young and Intel, the municipality rang in the new school year by distributing 1,720 mobile and desktop computers to schools, kindergartens and teachers in eastern Jerusalem.

An additional 350 new donated computers were given to schoolchildren to take home.

Jerusalem has just completed a light rail line which runs through the center or the city and connects it to Arab neighborhoods.  Also, Jerusalem is finding it difficult to get all necessary approvals to a  Master Plan for the development of a united Jerusalem.   This plan allocates additional acreage for Arab housing to accommodate the expected increase of Arab residents for the next twenty years.  Development is proceeding in the absence of the Master Plan.

Accordingly, Seidemann is totally wrong to write that "Israel displays little, if any, interest in genuinely incorporating the Palestinians into Israeli Jerusalem, while the Palestinians determinedly reject the legitimacy of Israeli governance over their lives."  On the first issue, that's exactly what Israel wants, and as to the second issue, the Palestinians, bowing to the Palestinian Authority's demands, don't vote in municipal elections and thus have no say in the operation of the city.  In fact, much of the problem is that the PA has a policy of confrontation rather than cooperation.  But that doesn't stop them from complaining about all the problems they have created.

Seidemann doesn't really want Israel to "genuinely incorporate the Palestinians into Israeli Jerusalem" because that would ensure that Jerusalem remain the undivided capital of Israel -- just the opposite of what he wants.

He thinks that the opinion of the international community matters.  Why so, if the solution is to be negotiated between Israel and the PA?  The international community has no right to interfere in these negotiations.  There is no obligation to compromise in the interest of making a deal.  Both parties can accept the status quo rather than make painful compromises.  In fact, it would appear that they have both chosen to do just that.

By and large, in Jerusalem, Arabs and Jews "lead separate lives," as Seidemann notes.  The Arabs in France, the U.K., Sweden, etc. also live separate lives.  So what?  That's what they want.  And in Israel, that's what Jews want, too.  Segregation, rather than integration, is the rule in the Middle East.  The West shouldn't be imposing its values on the people of the ME as if one size fits all.

Having said that, it is important to note that many areas of Jerusalem, both east and west of the '67 lines, comprise integrated neighborhoods.  And the rest of the areas east of the '67 lines constitute a checkerboard, or communities that cannot be separated with a line. Arabs in Jerusalem shop, work, and go to school in Jerusalem.  It is too late to redivide Jerusalem, and a redivision would not be in the best interests of the residents.

The Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs (JCPA) published a report entitled "Jerusalem: The dangers of division, An alternate to Separation from Arab Neighbourhoods."  The dangers and complications in doing so are too numerous to paraphrase.  Suffice it to say that separation is nonsensical.

Yes, Israel is isolated, but only because the world wants to impose its will on Israel.  In Seidemann's view, Israel should be governed by world opinion and not by its Knesset.

Leaving aside the nitty-gritty, Seidemann's greatest concern is that Israel's policies will make it impossible to divide Jerusalem, and that "means the end of the two-state solution, since Palestinians will never agree to a solution that does not include a capital in East Jerusalem."  Israel never agreed to divide Jerusalem, and the Arabs have no right to demand that it be divided.  So if the two-state solution fails because of Arab insistence on having what's not theirs, let it be on their heads.

No loss; the two-state solution was a bad idea to begin with.  The land is far too small to accommodate two states.  They would be in perpetual conflict.  The status quo is one preferred alternative.

Seidemann ignores the fact that the Arabs are also insisting on their so-called right of return and  '67 borders, subject to swaps, and are refusing to acknowledge Israel as the state of the Jewish people -- all of which signals the end of the two-state solution.  Not to mention that the Palestinians are refusing to negotiate anyway.

The truth of the matter is that the two-state solution was never to be.  The Arabs never wanted a two-state solution.  They did not want a state if that meant recognizing Israel as legitimate and as the state of the Jewish people.  Neither the Oslo Accords nor the Roadmap promised them a state.  At best, Israel was, and is, prepared to offer them limited sovereignty on part of Judea and Samaria, the details of which are to be negotiated.

Not only does Seidemann argue that Israeli policies prevent a two-state solution, but he asserts that "Israeli policies in East Jerusalem today threaten to transform the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a bitter national conflict that can be resolved by means of territorial compromise, into the potential for a bloody, unsolvable religious war."  Where exactly has Seidemann been?  For the last hundred years, this conflict has been "an unsolvable religious war."  There is nothing to suggest otherwise.  Unfortunately, the left continues to cling to the idea that it is a territorial dispute.

Seidemann is detached from reality.  The man argues that Israel "is also putting itself on a collision course with the forces of moderation in the Muslim and Christian worlds, who sense, with reason, that their equities are being marginalized in Jerusalem."  What forces of moderation?  He's got to be kidding.  What equities are being marginalized?  Beats me.

The PA knows that time is running against them.  If they want an independent state with parts of Jerusalem as its capital, they must return to the negotiating table immediately and make major concessions.  This they will not do.

Meanwhile, Israel is planning for a united city with equal rights to Jews and Arabs.  Now that's something to encourage.

Ted Belman is a retired lawyer and Editor of Israpundit.  He made aliya in 2009 and now lives in Jerusalem.

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