by Nadav Shragai
Is the High Commissioner of Palestine returning to the land of Israel? While the British left the land a long time ago, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is British, hasn't ceased to worry over, keep an eye on, and condemn us — all because of the decision to renew construction in Jerusalem.
For years Ashton and her associates pressured us to accept reality, to face the facts and to recognize the Palestinians' right to a state. Ultimately, and to the chagrin of many Israelis, even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to terms with the idea.
Now, Miss Ashton, it is your turn. It's about time that you and your colleagues face reality. The Jerusalem you are talking about today is much different than that of 45 years ago, which seems to still be stuck in your heads. This city, part of the Jewish genome, is not up for debate, first and foremost because of the continuous Jewish connection to it throughout the ages and our rights of primogeniture over the city (which has never been an Arab political or cultural capital).
Beyond these factors, though, you should take a few other facts into account: The area you are accustomed to calling "east Jerusalem," in other words, the area north and south and east of the Green Line that split the city in half during the Jordanian occupation, is home today to some 200,000 Jews comprising 41 percent of all the residents living in this area. Eighty-five percent of the 295,000 Arabs in east Jerusalem were born after 1967 into the reality of a united Jerusalem under Israeli governance, and were never exposed to the reality of a divided city.
They are extremely fearful of Palestinian Authority rule and the division of the city. Tens of thousands of them voted with their feet by crossing the security barrier in north Jerusalem over to the Israeli side, to remain inside the united city. Additional tens of thousands have said in surveys that they will do the same thing if the city is once again divided.
Israel has made mistakes in Jerusalem, but it has also done many good things: The health care system in Jerusalem serves both populations, as does Hebrew University, the Roads Authority, public transportation, shopping malls, electricity grids, telephone wires and the sewage system. The neighborhoods themselves are also intertwined. Even the barriers between the different quarters in the Old City are increasingly blurred. Jews live in the Muslim Quarter; Muslims live in the Christian Quarter. In contrast to the period under Jordanian rule, the holy sites are open to everyone. The only such restriction is against Jews — on the Temple Mount.
When you mention neighborhoods in Jerusalem, you must be accurate: In Beit Tzafafa, a village divided by fences and walls that separated Jordan and Israel, residents today say thanks on a daily basis that the walls have come down, despite the discrimination they suffer. Isawiya, which your spokespeople occasionally refer to as "east Jerusalem," was part of the Israeli Mount Scopus enclave until 1967.
But aside from "little" details such as these, you should write this down for yourselves: Dividing Jerusalem is not only impossible, it also contradicts the wills of the majority of the city's residents, Jewish and Arab alike.
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