Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Settlements in Jerusalem: Listing the Myths

As I've said, being a high-ranking civl servant means not publicly writing on political matters. Yet the intensity of misinformation being peddled these days about Jerusalem, along with the fact that there doesn't seem to be a large Israeli consistuency supporting the division of the city, have encouraged me to write this post.

My position on settlements in general on the West Bank is well-known to anyone who has followed my writing, online or other, and I'm not going to talk about it. Before focusing on Jerusalem, however, here's a comment about E1, which is beyond the line Israel annexed in 1967. About 10 years ago I heard a lecture by Daniel Seidmann, founder of Terrestrial Jerusalem. I expect Danny may regret I was listening carefully that day, but I was, and he made an interesting point: When it comes to E1, he said, the Israelis and Palestinians are competing to see who gets the balloon and who gets the string. Jewish West Jerusalem, Maaleh Adumim, Rammallah and Bethlehem are all there to stay. Whoever ends up controlling E1 will have a comfortable land corridor between their two balloons while the other side will be left with a road through the other's territory: a string. If Israel controls E1, the Palestinians will have a north-south road through it; if the Palestinians own E1, the Israelis will have an east-west road through it.

The claim whereby Israeli ownership of E1 would make for a truncated and thus non-viable Palestinian state on the West Bank ought to be about as convincing as saying a physical barrier between Manhattan and Brooklyn and New Jersey makes Manhattan non-viable.

To be clear: I'm not arguing for or against Israeli construction on E1. I'm merely pointing out that much of the verbiage on the topic is misleading.

So let's focus on Jerusalem, and on the internationally accepted demand that it be divided.

1. It won't work. Or perhaps I should say: It. Will. Never. Work. I've written about this exhaustively, with examples, maps, pictures, films and data.

2. There's a profound fallacy at the heart of the case for division. As governments pundits activists and ignoramusi are all busy telling us this week, without a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem there can be no independent Palestine. I'm not going to get into the epistomological reasons for their saying so, but it does seem worthwhile to ask: How do you know? And why should it be so? There are more than 4 million Palestinians on the WB and in Gaza, and about 300,000 in East Jerusalem. The 90-plus percent can't be sovereign if the 8 percent don't join them?

3. True, the Palestinians say they'll never accept a state which doesn't include Jerusalem. But then it should be clear: the issue is not that the Israelis refuse to allow a Palestinian State to be created, but rather that the Palestinians aren't willing to accept it unless on their terms.

4. Suppose both sides had agreed on all other matters, and peace or war depended solely on the question of Jerusalem. How is it logical to say that an Israeli refusal to accept a division of the city prevents peace, while a Palestinian refusal to forgo a division doesn't equally prevent peace? The expectation is that Israel can be sovereign without the heart of Jerusalem, the so-called Holy Basin, but Palestine can't? How so?

5. Finally, let's assume for a moment, against all logic, that Israeli construction in Jerusalem really will forever prevent the creation of a Palestinian state. At the moment the construction isn't yet happening. It may begin in a year, or more, and it may be completed and people will move into their new homes in, say, three years. Doesn't that mean that all Israel is doing now is to define a future date, three years hence, when Israeli construction will have thwarted the creation of Palestine? There will be no bulldozers moving in January 2013, nor in June, nor, I expect, in January 2014. So if the Palestinians are so desperate for a state, what they need to do is come to the negotiating table RIGHT NOW and stay there until an agreement is reached. If in two solid years of intensive negotiations peace cannot be achieved, then that failure will be the reason there's no peace, not any bureaucratic decision to enable the future construction of homes for Jews in Jerusalem.

It's even conceivable that the prevention of peace might have something to do with Palestinian positions and actions, not only Israeli ones.