Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, elected three years ago on a strong “Jerusalem will never be divided!” platform, has changed colors. He now proposes giving away parts of municipal Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority, in exchange for other areas currently on the Israeli side of the defense barrier but not under municipality responsibility.
Technically it’s not a “land swap,” as some are calling it, because though the Jerusalem municipality will both gain and lose some land in the deal, the bottom line for the state of Israel is a loss of territory to the PA.
Barkat’s call “paves the way for the erosion of the completeness and unity of Jerusalem,” said Likud Knesset Member and coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin. “The areas he wants to subtract from the city borders are part of the sovereign area of the State of Israel.”
Though Elkin drew no “personal” conclusions regarding Mayor Barkat, MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) said the mayor’s statements approach national betrayal. “Barkat has apparently overlooked Chapter 7, Paragraph 97 of Israel’s Criminal Code,” Eldad said, which designates death or life imprisonment for one who acts to have land removed from state sovereignty.
Deputy Mayor David Hadari, of the National Religious Party, explained why the plan is so dangerous for the future of Jerusalem. “There is no place for any concessions in this city,” he told Arutz-7, “neither directly nor indirectly… Concessions in Arab villages such as Kfar Akeb and the like can ultimately lead to concessions in Pisgat Ze’ev and N’vei Yaakov.”
“I imagine that Barkat feels, perhaps out of naivety, that this idea will help the city,” Hadari said. “But our party [a member of the municipal governing coalition] will make sure to thwart any moves of this nature.”
Hadari, who holds the municipal portfolio for Jewish Settlement Development in Eastern Jerusalem, added, “We can and will buttress Israel’s sovereignty in the problematic areas in other ways.”
Even Arab and left-wing spokesmen expressed opposition to Barkat’s proposal. An adviser on Jerusalem affairs in the office of PA chief Mahmoud Abbas said Barkat’s “racist and political” statements aim to cancel residency in Jerusalem for tens of thousands of Arabs living within the municipality border, and thus decrease Arab presence in Jerusalem by 15%. Similarly, Yehudit Oppenheimer, director of pro-Palestinian Ir Amim, said the idea is “dangerous and cruel” and primarily designed to “revoke the residency status of 70,000 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem.”
Given the above, why are most of those who support a united and Jewish Jerusalem so adamantly against the idea?
First and foremost, Yerushalayim stands for unity and completeness. Its very name signifies wholeness and peace; shalem means “whole” and shalom means “peace;” both these themes are emphasized in Psalm 122, which sings praise of the holy city.
Practically speaking, giving away certain Arab neighborhoods opens a perilous Pandora’s box. Our enemies will say: “Why stop there? Hand over other Arab neighborhoods, such as Beit Tzafafa, Abu Tor, and the Moslem Quarter, as well!” This would effectively divide Jerusalem, almost as it was for 19 years before the Six-Day War. The very idea is thus a mortal wound upon the sovereignty of our capital.
In addition, it would be a terrible blow to personal and national security in the capital. The Arab neighborhoods in question are in close proximity to many tens of thousands of Jews in Talpiyot, Pisgat Ze’ev, N’vei Yaakov, and elsewhere. Handing them over to Hamas/Hizbullah/al Qaeda control is foolish at best – and fatally dangerous at worst.
And if Barkat thinks he can solve a demographic problem this way, he should think again. Arabs in Jerusalem have already indicated they prefer Israeli control to that of the Palestinian Authority. Thousands of them will simply cross over the wall and find permanent, legal residence elsewhere in eastern Jerusalem. Thus, the current phenomenon of increased Arab presence in Jewish neighborhoods will be exacerbated.
Yes, there is a problem of police presence in Arab neighborhoods, but the solution is simply to augment it – not run away. Both Kafr Akeb and the Shuafat refugee camp, for instance, are already major suppliers of hard drugs to Jewish youth in Jerusalem. Giving up formal control of these areas will only intensify the problem.
If even Mayor Barkat, who has long shunned anything hinting at a division of Yerushalayim, can propose giving up control of parts of the city, we learn once again that we can never rest in the face of the intense, constant international pressure upon us to relinquish control over our historic holy city. We must redouble our efforts to educate ourselves, our relatives and our friends regarding the critical importance – in terms of security, demographics, history and more – of retaining a complete and united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty.
For more information on keeping Jerusalem under Jewish sovereignty, go to www.keepjerusalem.org.