The wrong way to divide Jerusalem

June 9 saw the publication of a new piece of major analysis by Daniel Seidemann: “Dividing Jerusalem, Solidifying Occupation.” The key elements of this analysis are summarized below.

The realization that the status quo is unsustainable finds expression in a slew of recent proposals calling for dividing the city, most notably one from Israeli opposition leader Isaac “Buji” Herzog, another from Labor leader Haim Ramon, and a third, more oblique but similar in substance to the others, from Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

While this awakening to the reality of the unsustainability of Israeli rule in East Jerusalem is welcome (and long overdue), these plans are all dangerous and counterproductive, in their approach and in their details.

Deepening Occupation. The central idea of all of these plans is to excise large numbers of Palestinians (as many as 200,000) from the city, cutting them off from families, hospitals, places of work, study, and worship. The remaining Palestinians – as many as 120,000 living in areas Israel prizes too highly to let go – would be isolated within Israel’s new borders, subject to policies more openly hostile to their presence than at any time since 1967. By doing so, these proposals further cement occupation and a one-state reality on the ground.

Cutting-off the Palestinians from the Temple Mount. Israeli governments and settlers have been working for years to establish – through housing, parks, archeological sites, and tourist facilities – a Jewish pseudo-Biblical domain in the most volatile areas of East Jerusalem (and, indeed, of the planet), that is, the Old City and its visual basin, including the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif, all at the expense of Muslim and Christian equities. Suggestions of further cutting off Palestinians from these areas only exacerbates this dangerous trend – a trend that is transforming the Israeli-Palestinian political conflict, resolvable by the two-state solution, into a zero-sum religious battle.

Exacerbating Tensions, Fueling Violence. These proposals make a bad security situation worse. Security in Jerusalem is a function neither of the number of Israeli security forces on the city’s streets and borders, nor of the number of its Palestinian residents, per se. Insecurity in Jerusalem today stems from Palestinian rage, fueled by despair, deriving from permanent occupation, sharpened by fears that Israel seeks to change the status quo on the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif. Israeli statements, policies, and actions that intensify this despair, and lend credence to those fears – like proposing cutting 200,000 Palestinians off from their own city – only feed greater rage and violence.

Disqualifying the Israeli Left as a partner for peace.  These initiatives capitulate to and promote the view that there is no Palestinian partner for negotiations and embrace a position as dehumanizing of the Palestinians as that of Israel’s racist and Islamophobic Right – saying to the Palestinians and the world that in Jerusalem, only Israelis lives matter. The hate-inciting video clip recently posted by Ramon’s movement – so despicable that it made even supporters of his plan uncomfortable – is confirmation of the racist, distorted word-views served by this initiative