Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Don't Divide Jerusalem: Context

Jerusalem cannot be divided without havoc and bloodletting. I hope to offer a series of posts to demonstrate why. Today's post looks at the geography and at borders.

I'm assuming anyone who knows how to read a blog also knows how to use Google Earth, so the images I've downloaded should be merely a guide to your own viewing. Let's start with a screen-shot of central Israel, an area smaller than Los Angeles.
You can see (sort of) that Jerusalem sits on the top of a north-south ridge of hills. Directly to its north is the town of Ramallah, directly to its south the town of Bethlehem. Directly to its east is the Judean Desert. Since Google has helpfully added the Green Line of 1949-1967 (in red), to the west of the city you can see the Jerusalem Corridor, a finger of territory that connects the city to the rest of Israel, while jutting into the West Bank. Before 1967 Jerusalem was not only divided, it was surrounded on three sides by hostile enemy territory. From its vantage points on the high peaks of Nabi Samuel to the north, and Beit Jallah to the south, the Jordanian army could see just about the entire city below.

Let's get closer to the city itself.
I've marked two significant points. To the north is the Atarot airstrip (circled in light blue), and down to the right, the Holy Basin. Each plays a different role in the story. First, the airstrip.

Between 1949 and 1967 West Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, and it grew significantly. East Jerusalem wasn't the capital of anything, and didn't grow. In June 1967 when Israel took over the entire town, the Jordanian "half" of it was a small area, almost completely inside the yellow frame. To the north, well outside town, was a small airstrip, near where there had been a Jewish village of Atarot until it was conquered by the Jordanians in 1948. In June 1967 a team of three Israeli generals - Uzi Narkis, Shlomo Lahat, and retired general Moshe Dayan - were told to draw a new municipal line. They felt the airstrip had to be inside it, and so they invented a new definition of the city which had no history and not very much logic.(Source for the map) This artificial town had a population of about 250,000, 70,000 of them Palestinians from the Jordanian side, many of whom did not know they were in Jerusalem until the Israelis told them. Had you asked them they'd have said they lived in Um Tuba, or Kfar Akeb, and so on. Israel then proceeded to annex the area inside the line, to offer citizenship to it's populace (they mostly didn't take it), and to "force" upon them the benefits of permanent residents such social security and later universal health care, when we all got it. (Those they did take).

Since 1967 the city has roughly trebled in size, to about 800,000, of them some 250,000 Palestinians. The Palestinians spread out from their villages, some of which connected to each other and to the center. The Jews spread out in the west, and added 10 new neighborhoods in the new areas beyond the old border. Nine of them appear on the above map, and one (Ramat Shlomo), the most recent, doesn't. They are, north to south: Neve Yaakov, Pisgat Zeev, Ramot, Ramat Shlomo, Ramat Eshkol (including Sanhedria), French Hill, the Jewish Qurter of the Old City, East Talpiot, Gilo, and Har Homa. There's also an industrial area of mostly Jewish-owned companies way to the north, next to the airstrip, but no-one lives there. The airstrip, by the way, is defunct. So much for that miscalculation.

The historical heart of Jerusalem is called the Holy Basin. It's a new name, which first entered the political discussion in the Camp David discussions of summer 2000: Ehud Barak was willing to consider handing over the outer Palestinian neighborhoods, the Um Tubas and the Kfar Akebs which probably should never have been defined as Jerusalem in the first place, but was loth to divide the truly historical heart of Jerusalem. There is no official definition of what precisely fits into the Holy Basin, but it's more or less the area between Mount Scopus to the north and the Hill of Evil Council to the south, or perhaps less, depending upon whom you ask. (The Hill of Evil Council, by the way, is a New Testament name, upon which the British built their government house, and the UN sits until this very day. I spoof you not).The center of the Holy Basin is the Old City, which actually isn't the oldest part of town. To it's north I've marked the Sheikh Jarrah area, and to its south I've marked the City of David-Silwan area - which is the oldest part of the city, predating the wrongly named Old City by about 2,000 years.
I've marked five sections of the Old City. Green for the Muslim Quarter, red for the Christian Quarter, blue for the Armenian Quarter, fuchsia for the Jewish Quarter, and yellow for the Temple Mount, called Haram el-Shariff by the Muslims. Jerusalem not being New York, the resolution offered by Google Earth becomes less helpful when you get closer than this altitude above the city, but maybe in a future post, when I try to show the silliness of dividing the city, I'll try none-the-less.

Proposed borders: Jerusalem hasn't been divided, nor has anyone ever officially agreed on how to divide it. Yet since 2000 there has been much discussion of such a division, and of course a total international consensus that it must happen (except for those who disagree). For the purpose of my future posts on the matter, in which I shall try to show why the city cannot feasibly be divided, I'm following the contours of this international consensus. Its principles were formulated by President Bill Clinton on Dec. 24th 2000, and they're very simple: areas where Jews live in will be in Israel, areas where Palestinians live in will be in Palestine. The Temple Mount-Haram elSharif will be in Palestine because the Palestinians really really want it and there are mosques on it. Where possible - open areas, for example - the border will be the Green line of 1949-67.

The folks who agreed on the Geneva Initiative have gone to a lot of effort to make detailed maps of the various sections of town and who they'll belong to; compare their polished output to my slap-dash ones and you'll be impressed, I assure you. The whole 10-piece series is here. Their lines are pretty much what Clinton had in mind, and I expect his wife and her boss agree. So my task in the coming posts will be to show what the reality will look like, and why you wouldn't want anyone you know to have to live in it.

Next chapter: The nine logical outcomes of dividing Jerusalem


Anonymous said...

already now that reads very much like the madness that dominated the Versailles conference which as far as I could figure out up to now did lead to neither more nor less trouble than the simple drawing of a line with a ruler which they like to malign Churchill for having done.

The only consolation I can find in preferring the committeering approach is that it creates and secures a lot of jobs including those for the lower orders who hopefully get a chance to fleece the committeerers.


NormanF said...

As Yaacov, knows, the fundamental problem with redividing Jerusalem is that Jews live next to Arabs cheek to jowl. Past Israeli governments deliberately scattered Jews through eastern Jerusalem to make a future redivision of the city impossible. The city is an organic whole and there is no way it can be divided without causing a great deal of suffering and chaos. Those who blithely pencil lines on a map have never seen modern Jerusalem, much less than lived in it. For Israel to agree to such a redivision of its capital is not only to commit national suicide but to literally invite Iranian snipers into the heart of Israel.

That's not going to happen in our own lifetime.

Morey Altman said...

Perhaps they're considering some other major city that has been successfully divided, but I could't think of one. And before you say anything, Sault Ste. Marie doesn't count. ;)

(Speaking of Canadian cities, however, negotiators should be looking to Lloydminster as a model for a city which successfully straddles a border.)

Avigdor said...

Most cities which straddle borders are not relevant case studies, because they've tended to merge into the border area as a consequence of cross-border trade and population growth. Take greater San Diego and Tijuana.

Cutting urban areas up is possible (Berlin, Northern Ireland, Baghdad), but only so long as the walls are very very high.

This is meaningless and beside the point. The border with Gaza conforms with the 49-67 border. The issue is not whether, on paper, the land can be divided, but whether 100% of the Palestinians will accept this division, or if 95% of the Palestinians are willing to kill the 5% that don't accept it and have access to weapons. They're not.

The security situation in the PA-administered areas right now is not a consequence of a desire to combat Arab rejectionism to partition of the land. Fayaad's army is fighting Hamas to stay alive. They'll take off their uniforms, kill Fayaad and shoot at Jews the minute Hamas offers their families amnesty.

We're hearing from all the wrong people. Fayaad and Abbas could be gone tomorrow. Fayaad is literally Washington's man, like Karzai in Afghanistan. He has no mandate. All he controls is the Western cash spigot, which is why he is still alive. Neither he nor Abbas is in command of their people, and they can't impose any solution on their population.

Anonymous said...

just found this - enjoy! - Silke

"believes that Israel's right to exist in safety as a Jewish state, with defensible borders and an undivided Jerusalem as its capital, secure from violence and terrorism, must never be questioned"?

That was Senator Hillary Clinton.

Or possibly the co-sponsor of the Jerusalem Embassy Act (S. 1322), which stated that "Jerusalem should remain an undivided city and ... should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel"?

That was Senator Joe Biden.

Or maybe, as reported by ABC News in June 2008, the person who wrote: "In general terms, clearly Israel must emerge in a final-status agreement with secure borders. Jerusalem will remain Israel's capital, and no one should want or expect it be redivided"?

That was Senator Barack Obama.

Empress Trudy said...

Yes those are all facts and reality. Obama isn't interested in facts and reality. He's interested in the expulsion of ALL Jews outside of the 1949 Armistice line. He will make you an offer you can't accept and will abandon you unless you abandon all those Jews. About a million Jewish refugees will result. The Palestinians will burn down the entire infrastructure of the buildings they fought so hard to keep Jews out of and in 20 years, a smaller Israel will be thriving again while the dung heap of Palestine will put a burning tire on their flag.

Uncle Mutt said...


I hope you include in this series Israeli Arab objections to dividing the city. From what I've read in the past, the vast majority of Israel's Arabs, and East Jerusalem's Arabs in particular - something like 70-85 percent - prefer Israeli rule to transferring control of their neighborhoods to the PA, which they fear and loathe. It would be great if you could dig up that data.

Avi said...

There is nothing like the view from the ground to complicate the matter. A couple of days ago I went with couple of friends for a walk round the walls of the Old City from the Jaffa Gate to the Lions Gate. Pictures at http://linden.smugmug.com/Israel/Jerusalem/round-Old-City-walls-from/11970022_89W5U#848212704_8aKcs This was a recapitulation of the walking tour our synagogue organised on Pesach http://linden.smugmug.com/Kehilat-Yaar-Ramot/Tiyullim/Old-City-Walls-Zidkiyahus-cave/11693538_nFQ97#825045626_EYLdZ

We noticed (for the umpteenth time) that the area around Sultan Suleiman Street is the centre of Arab East Jerusalem. We could count the number of women walking along without head covering on the fingers of one hand. East Jerusalem is another town next to the town where we live, but in another country. We have been living in Jerusalem for the past 30 years, 25 of them in Ramot.

The solution to the conflict is going to have to encompass both the recognition by the Palestinians and their erstwhile supporters of the national and political rights of the Jewish People to a recognised State in the Land of Israel. It is also going to have to include the physical national rights of the Palestinians in Jerusalem because neither they nor we are going anywhere in a hurry.

At the moment neither political leadership is ready for such a move, even after or perhaps because of the history of the last few years. It is much easier for the extremists on both sides to blot out reality with the bright light of righteousness blinding them and their supporters.

I am struck too by how easy it is to draw virtual lines on a map to solve conflicts from a great altitude and distance. It looks great. However once you get closer to the ground, the picture starts to get very blurred and you have no idea where you are and what you are doing.

Daniel said...


Do you have figures of how many Jews live beyond the '67. I heard someone say it was a majority of Jerusalem's Jewish reisdents but I have not been able to confirm that.

Rabbi Tony Jutner said...

Even though you are a fascist, I agree with you about not dividing Jerusalem, howeverm my solution is different. I believe that for the sake of world peace, ALL of Jerusalem must be returned to the Palestinians. We Jews are too sophisticated to invest a particular physical locale with sanctity. Even if Jerusalem is divided, the Palestinians will not enjoy the full economic benefits of Jerusalem and will thus have legitimate grievances against the Jewish people. It would also assuage Iran of Israels peaceful intentions

Avigdor said...

I thought San Francisco was your Jerusalem? You want to give San Francisco to the Palestinians?

Morey Altman said...

Dear Fake Rabbi,

Then your plan has been realized. Jerusalem IS in the hands of the Palestinians. Since the UN determined that everyone residing in Palestine for at least two years before 1948 (and their descendants) could identify as a Palestinian, Jerusalem today - indeed the State of Israel itself - is the sovereign territory of Palestinian Jews. Problem solved.

Victor, he can't give San Francisco to the Palestinians; the Caucasian population of California is only 42%, therefore the State must be declared an autonomous country under Hispanic and Asian control, since they represent the majority of California's residents.

AKUS said...

Excellent article. It remains only to point out how much of "East Jerusalem" is actually north and south of Jerusalem.

This is not merely linguistics - the concept of "East" Jerusalem" implies that we are talking of areas that lie "East" of what some seem to have decided for Israel should be its eastern border - and therefore, e.g., Ramat Shlomo, or Pisgat Zeev, etc are "east" and therfeore "Palestinian."

So many of those "mediators" and general busy-bodies have no idea of the reality of the situation, nor, by the way, of the absolutely tiny size of the area involved. My neighborhood is larger than the area of the "Holy Basin" etc.

Moreover, as you point out, till 1967 "East Jerusalem" was not the capital of anything, and the Arabs in the surrounding villages would have been very surprised to hear that they lived there. Or that they were Palestinians.