Mousa Qous
Bitterlemons (Blog)
August 2, 2011 - 12:00am

No doubt Jerusalem could be the key to peace in the Middle East, if Israel--the occupying power--cedes East Jerusalem to enable the Palestinians to establish the capital of their future state.

Instead, the opposite is taking place. To consolidate its grip over Jerusalem, the Israeli government continues with its settlement activities in the middle of Arab Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. These create new facts on the ground that make any future withdrawal almost impossible.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem immediately after its occupation in 1967 and in 1980 its government approved the Basic Law where Article 1 stipulates that, "Jerusalem, eternal and indivisible, is the capital of the state of Israel."

However, UN Security Council resolutions 242, 252, 253, 245, 267, 298, and UN General Assembly resolutions 2253 and 2254, for example, do not recognize the unilateral Israeli annexation of the city and consider it null and void.

This has not deterred Israel in the least. The Jerusalem municipality's Master Plan for 2000 aims to "secure an absolute Jewish majority in the city by creating a framework to proceed with the development of the city of Jerusalem as a capital for the Jewish state and a seat for its government," and "to achieve a long term goal which reflects the future vision for the city as conceived by the city's fathers."

According to Amir Cheshin, advisor on Arab affairs to the late Israeli mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek, "Since 1967, Israel's leaders adopted two basic principles in their rule over East Jerusalem. The first was to rapidly increase the Jewish population in East Jerusalem. The second was to hinder growth of the Arab population and to force Arab residents to make their homes elsewhere."

Even if current international efforts succeed in urging the Palestinians and Israelis to resume direct talks (if only to avoid the Palestinian UN bid for statehood in September), these talks will go nowhere if they keep the issue of Jerusalem unresolved or postponed. And no Palestinian is ready to accept a state without its capital, Jerusalem.

As a Palestinian native of Jerusalem who has been living in the city for the past 49 years, I believe Jerusalem, which is the spiritual capital of the three monotheistic religions, can in fact be the capital of both peoples. The city is too culturally and religiously significant to so many to be denied to any. However, the Israeli government first needs to rescind its policies of displacement that target Palestinians.

Another benefit of ending the occupation is that new and normal relations could be established and creative solutions could be found to guarantee the peaceful coexistence of both people in their shared city. Palestinians cannot be asked to give further concessions or accept newly-established Israeli facts on the ground after the painful concession they offered by declaring their state on only 22 percent of historical Palestine.

Unfortunately, it seems the current Israeli government is unconcerned with making peace in the region. Its ongoing settlement encroachment on Palestinian land continues to pressure Palestinians in both Jerusalem and other areas of Palestine. As long as this mentality of occupation and settlement expansion continues to prevail, it will inevitably result in more clashes between both sides, pushing peace even farther away. -Published 1/8/2011 ©

Mousa Qous is an editor at al-Quds newspaper and a researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights.


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