- It’s hard to find anyone these days in East Jerusalem who supports the idea of splitting the city again. Even PA representatives are opposed to a return to the situation that existed before the Six Day War. The Palestinians would prefer for the city to remain open and without borders.
Back when Ehud Barak first came to power, the PA already began to prepare for the day when the Palestinians would get full sovereignty over East Jerusalem. Senior PA officials knew even before the last elections that if Barak were elected prime minister, he would concede the eastern part of the city. “We received promises from senior Labor Party members that if they came to power they would divide Jerusalem and give us an independent state,” says Khatem Abed el-Kader, a representative of the Jerusalem district in the Palestinian Legislative Council.
The PA’s plan for East Jerusalem includes:
1 – Stationing between 2,500 and 4,000 police and Palestinian security personnel in all the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, including the Old City and the commercial centers (Saladin Street, Sultan Suleiman Street A-Zahara Street and Wadi Joz). The headquarters of the various security organizations would also be moved form Gaza and Ramallah to East Jerusalem.
2 – PA Chairman Yasser Arafat would open an office on the Temple Mount compound or in one of the buildings in the Moslem Quarter that overlooks the mosques. Arafat wants the el-Aksa mosque and the Dome of the Rock to be visible from the window of this office. He likes to compare himself to the great Moslem fighter Salah a-Din who liberated Jerusalem from the Crusaders, and his picture with the Temple Mount in the background would help him create the image of the person who followed in this statesman’s footsteps. The PA, incidentally, is at this time considering giving Arafat the title “fatah el-Kuds” (the liberator of Jerusalem) in light of their appreciation of his liberating Jerusalem from the Zionist conquerors.
3 – The PA plans to take control of the Wakf’s properties and state lands in East Jerusalem. The Moslem Wakf (which continues to be subordinate to the Jordanian government) at present has thousands of buildings and large areas in the Old City and the surrounding Arab neighborhoods. The State of Israel also owns lands that were appropriated for public use.
4 – There have been calls in the PA of late to allow tens of thousands of Palestinians, mainly refugees who live in camps in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, to settle in East Jerusalem. The goal: to create a Palestinian majority in East Jerusalem and to turn the “settlers” in French Hill, Ramat Eshkol, Pisgat Zeev, Neve Yaakov, Gilo and Armon Hanatziv into a minority. Thus the Palestinians hope to get the Jewish neighborhoods established in East Jerusalem after ’67 evacuated. But in fact it is the residents of East Jerusalem who should be worried about the neighborhoods and villages being deluged by tens of thousands of Arabs. Residents of Ramallah and Nablus have experienced this on their skins.
5 – Palestinian security sources report on a long list of residents in East Jerusalem who are suspected of collaborating with Israel. These sources say that most of these collaborators will be arrested as soon as the Palestinian police enter Jerusalem. Until today these collaborators enjoyed immunity thanks to their blue ID cards they hold.
The PA, on the other hand, does not have, at this stage, answers to the serious economic problems that would be created when Israel withdraws from East Jerusalem. Around 50,000 families that are entitled to National Insurance payments could find themselves without a crust of bread if their allowances stop. The PA does not have an orderly system to replace the National Insurance Institute. Just the opposite, economists believe that the standard of living in East Jerusalem will drop 50% lower after being given to the PA. They warn of the repercussions of such a situation, as there would two populations in Jerusalem: a Jewish one with a very high standard of living and a thriving economy, and a Palestinian one with a low standard of living and poverty. If Isawiyya residents are not happy, warn economists and others, their neighbors in French will have good reason to be anxious.
This article appeared in the Yerushalaim magazine (owned by Yediot Aharonot) on Dec. 29, 2000