Benjamin Netanyahu Israel Israeli settlements Jerusalem

Myths and facts about Jerusalem

Americans for Peace Now has posted an excellent summary of the situation in Jerusalem by Hagit Ofran, the head of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch program. It has been on their web site for awhile but is worth repeating here in the land of realistic doves. It is a scathing critique of the tenure of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, asserting that since his election in November 2008, he has been “one of the most faithful allies the East Jerusalem settlers could have…The intensification of settlement activities in East Jerusalem threatens the chances of implementing the two-state solution and might create an irreversible situation that would prevent a compromise in Jerusalem.”

Among the valuable tidbits are some responses to common arguments in defense of Israeli behavior in Jerusalem. These are the truths Eli Wiesel either doesn’t know or wilfully ignores:

• “Jews may build in East Jerusalem just as Arabs may build in West Jerusalem.”

The truth is it is practically impossible for Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem to buy or build houses in West Jerusalem. Most of the lands in Israel are “state lands” and, according to the Israel Land Administration (ILA), anyone who is not an Israeli citizen (or entitled to immigrate to Israel according to the Law of Return) must obtain a special ILA permit before they can buy or own state lands or apartments built on them (and such permits are issued only in most irregular cases).

• “We plan for Arabs too, not only for settlers.”

One of the first issues that Barkat addressed was the promotion of “The King’s Garden” plan for the construction of a Biblical park in the Bustan Neighborhood in Silwan. It was to be built on the ruins of dozens of Palestinian houses that were to be demolished because they were built without permits. The plan attracted great international criticism. Attempting to justify the vast demolitions, Barkat promised he would promote a grand construction plan for Palestinians near the Bustan park. At the same time, Barkat is trying to prevent the execution of an evacuation order issued against Jewish settlers who reside on Jonathan House in Silwan, while vowing again to promote a plan for the legalization of illegal Palestinian houses, including Jonathan House.

The truth is that even if these plans survive the long and expensive planning process and become valid, there is very little chance for the Palestinians to actually realize them due to difficulties associated with land ownership and many other economic and planning problems. Past experience shows that when the city attempts to build a settlement (in Ras al-Amud and earlier in Bet Orot in As-Sawane), it presents them as running parallel with plans for Arabs. Eventually, in the said case, the Jewish plan was realized, but the Palestinian plan was not.

• “House demolitions in East Jerusalem are about law-enforcement and are part of our struggle against illegal construction.”

The truth is that houses are built illegally in East Jerusalem as a direct result of the ongoing lack of plans for Palestinians and negligence of some one-third of the Jerusalem residents, whon one cannot describe them all as “construction criminals”. Since 1967, the government initiated the planning and construction of some 50,000 apartments for Jews in East Jerusalem, while less than 700 such units were initiated for the Palestinians (and only in the 1970’s).

You can find more myths and facts in an April 27th piece by APN’s Lara Friedman.

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