Comment / Israel is to blame for Jerusalem's rising Arab population
By Shaul Arieli
Tags: Benjamin Netanyahu, Jerusalem
The conduct of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet marks a new peak in the government's march of stupidity on Jerusalem. In the best case this march will put Israel in an inferior position when negotiations with the Palestinians are renewed. In the worst case it will advance the transformation of Jerusalem into a capital with an Arab majority of a single state between the Jordan River and the sea.
Cutting East Jerusalem off from the West Bank and expelling 60,000 Palestinians from its precincts by means of the separation fence were aimed at ensuring Israel's control of a "united Jerusalem" and establishing a solid Jewish majority in the city.
owever, since the erection of the fence thousands of Palestinians have moved into the city, including its Western part.
This migration stems from the fears of Palestinians living outside of Jerusalem or outside the country that their Israeli residency will be taken away from them and thus they will be cut off from East Jerusalem, which serves as the center of their lives.
It is also motivated by the security checks, which make their access to the city ever more difficult.
During this past year the implementation of these threats has increased migration, bringing the day closer when the share of the Palestinian population in the capital (which rose from 25 percent in 1967 to 36 percent in 2009) will cross the median line.
Jerusalem's former mayor, the late Teddy Kollek, held the "mosaic" view of the city, the main principle of which was the maintenance of the contiguous developed Jewish area. This has given way to a policy of "vertical envelopment" - the purchase of buildings and the construction of Jewish neighborhoods in the heart of Arab villages like Ma'aleh Zeitim in Ras al-Amud, Kidmat Zion in Abu Dis, Beit Yonatan and Beit Hadvash in Silwan and the attempt by Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to let Jews live in Sheikh Jarrah.
This presence will not be able to vanquish the Arab neighborhoods demographically. It will only exacerbate the daily friction and lead to the expenditure of about NIS 50 million from the public coffers for security. In the long term, these moves will sabotage the necessary condition for a permanent status agreement - a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.
During decades of neglect, the Arab neighborhoods have lacked in infrastructure, education and health; 36 percent of the city's inhabitants received only 7 percent of its budget.
Demolition orders have been issued for thousands of homes built without permits in those neighborhoods, for which no master plan has been drawn up during the past 40 years.
None of this has motivated the Palestinian inhabitants of Jerusalem to move out of the capital. On the contrary. A survey conducted recently in the Jewish neighborhoods of the city found that during the past three years 1,361 apartments in those neighborhoods were sold to Arabs.
The shortage of 1,500 classrooms gives criminal gangs and terrorist groups a chance to reach kids who have nothing better to do than roam the streets.
It came as no surprise that in the 2006 elections Hamas won all the Jerusalem seats in the Palestinian parliament.
The statements by some members of the government and the Knesset concerning their willingness to relinquish the outlying Arab neighborhoods are contradicted by the municipality's actions. Thus recently a road was paved from Pisgat Ze'ev to the Begin freeway which crosses through Beit Hanina, and the route of the light rail line will pass through Shuafat.
The new buildings going up in Beit Hanina are being connected to the Jerusalem water grid, whereas their neighbors are connected to Ramallah.
These measures and trends will not benefit Israel during negotiations, or in their absence. The government of Israel must give up the dream of a united Jerusalem for all eternity in order to ensure that Hebrew Jerusalem, including its eastern neighborhoods, will remain the capital of the Jewish state for the next generation as well.
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