Some good news in Jerusalem last week drew a response from the radical-left pro-Palestinian Ir Amim (City of Nations) organization that was so far removed from reality, it was almost laughable.
It was announced that the local city Planning and Construction Committee had advanced by one more notch a plan to build 770 apartments in Gilo, in southern Jerusalem. The plan has been in the works since 2013, and has several steps to go before construction actually starts.
Ir Amim lamented in response that the plan leaves only a very small area between Jerusalem and the Arab village of Beit Jalla. The group also complained that by advancing this plan, Mayor Nir Barkat “is striking yet another blow at chances for a future political arrangement [between Israel and the Palestinian Authority].”
What’s strange about this response is that a look at the map of Gilo, Beit Jalla, and the designated construction area shows that the planned Jewish growth barely affects Beit Jalla at all. It’s still farther from Beit Jalla than other parts of Gilo!
In addition, the project can have absolutely no effect on a planned arrangement with the PA, in that it is located entirely within the sovereign capital city of Israel, the holy city of Yerushalayim. Only those who wish to divide the city in half would lament a Jewish housing project in Gilo, or in any other Jewish neighborhood in greater Jerusalem.
On the other hand, what’s up with Arab construction? The picture can best be summed up in the words of scholar Bassam Tawil, self-described as “Sunni Palestinian:”
“As the international community continues to slam Israel for construction in Jewish settlement communities, Palestinians are quietly engaging in massive construction of entire neighborhoods in many parts of the West Bank and Jerusalem [that is] illegal in every respect.”
Tawil has noted that there is actually “no housing crisis for the Arab population; it is not an Arab housing crisis that is prompting this spree of illegal Palestinian construction. Rather, the goal is political: to show the world that Jerusalem is an Arab, and not a Jewish, city. By and large, the [new Arab-built] apartments remain empty: there is simply no real demand.”
What is the reaction both internationally and by Israeli courts to the illegal Arab building? As Tawil put it, “Apparently, settlements are only a ‘major obstacle to peace’ when they are constructed by Jews.”
What can John Q. Public do about the burgeoning illegal Arab construction that threatens to stymie Jewish growth in the holy city in three directions? One traditional method is to write to the authorities that control the situation: Prime Minister Netanyahu (website: http://www.pmo.gov.il/English/PrimeMinister/Pages/ContactUs.aspx) and Mayor Nir Barkat (office e-mail address: Lishka@Jerusalem.muni.il). An influx of e-mails demanding that the demographic balance not continue to tip toward Arab growth, and that Jewish construction be unfrozen at a faster pace, will certainly have its effect.
We must also keep in mind, when speaking with acquaintances or otherwise discussing Jerusalem – and Jerusalem supporters should seek out such conversations – that international law cannot be used to justify dividing Jerusalem. Quite the contrary. Israel’s control over both eastern and western Jerusalem is well rooted in international law. The city is Jewish under international law by virtue of the League of Nations’ Mandate for Palestine. The subsequent UN Partition Plan, which sought to redefine Jerusalem as an international area, was never applied – for it was summarily rejected by all the Arab states and never voted on in the Security Council.
Even if the Partition Plan were to be revived with its demand that Jerusalem be internationalized, it should be noted that the plan also calls for a referendum of the city’s residents – and the large Jewish majority would carry the day.
Let us also note in our discussions that Israel’s liberation of parts of the city during the Six-Day War of self-defense were from a country (Jordan) whose claims of sovereignty were not recognized by the international community. The areas cannot therefore be considered occupied.
In short, Jerusalem is ours – though sometimes we must remind the prime minister, the mayor, and others of this simple truth.
In other Jerusalem news, the police appear to be doing their job against Palestinian terrorism in the capital. Intelligence information received last week indicated that the Popular Front (PFLP) terrorist organization was planning a gathering somewhere in the eastern sections of the capital. Jerusalem Police Commander Yoram HaLevy signed an order, and policemen arrived at the designated location and prevented the event from taking place. (This action was taken by virtue of a newly legislated clause in the Fight Against Terrorism law.)
The very same day, Jerusalem police raided an Arab radio station, with court approval, for having disseminated message of incitement against Jews. The station is located not far from Damascus Gate, on Salah a-Din St.
It cannot be emphasized enough: Only if Israel continues to assert its sovereignty in all parts of Jerusalem will there be a chance for true coexistence, freedom for all religions, and peace.
To take part in bus tours of in-the-news parts of Jerusalem, or to receive updates on the battle to keep Yerushalayim, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech at www.keepjerusalem.org.