The Myth Of Jerusalem: A Position
Jerusalem Should Be
by Gershon Baskin
Washington Post Sunday, June 26, 1994
The political leadership of Israel speaks of a consensus on the
future status of Jerusalem -- one which represents more than 95
percent of the Israeli public. This consensus, defined as the
Israeli policy, supposedly is as follows: All of Jerusalem is
Israel's eternal, undivided capital. All of Jerusalem must remain
under Israeli sovereignty forever.
- I maintain that this is not really the consensus of Israeli
opinion on Jerusalem but is in fact a rather narrow view of
what should be the future of this city,. The true consensus,
as opposed to this mythical consensus, can be stated as follows:
All Israelis believes and desire that:
1. Jerusalem must never return to the status it had prior to
June 1967. Jerusalem should never be physically divided. It
must remain an open city with free access throughout its boundaries
2. Personal security and security of property must be guaranteed
for all in all parts of the city. No one should have to fear
getting a knife in his back in any part of the city and no one
should have to fear getting his car torched or other property
damaged in any part of the city.
3. The new Jewish neighborhoods built in East Jerusalem after
1967 must remain under Israeli sovereignty. There can be no
compromise on this.
4. The Jewish Holy Places must remain under Israeli control.
(This does not include the Haram).
do I think this is the true consensus? To begin with, if Israelis
(and even Jerusalemites) were asked to draw a map of today's
municipal boundaries, very few would be capable of completing
the task. This suggest that these boundaries Moreover, if Israelis
were asked to name the 18 neighborhoods of Arab East Jerusalem,
almost none of them would be able to do so. If you asked Israelis
how many of them have visited in those Arab neighborhoods, the
answer would be almost none. If you asked how would be interested
in visiting those Arab neighborhoods, the answer would be the
- I feel certain that almost all Israelis, if asked whether
the Jerusalem municipality should invest money in developing
those Arab neighborhoods, almost all Israelis would say that
it shouldn't. Certainly, this has been the practice: Since 1967,
the Jerusalem municipality has invested next to nothing in those
Again, ask Israelis if their country has any real need (other
than perhaps security) for controlling those neighborhoods.
The answer of most people, I am certain, would be no.
- All of this would seem to suggest that most Israelis don't
really care about the Arab parts of East Jerusalem. Rather,
most Israelis are concerned about the ability of Israel to maintain
its capital in Jerusalem, to have security, to have an open
Old City with Jewish control of Jewish Holy Places. But the
status of the Arab sections of Jerusalem is really of little
interest to almost all Israelis.
- I believe that one of the primary acts which must be taken
on the Israeli side in order to prepare Jerusalem for negotiations
is to break down the myth of consensus. This can be done in
several ways. First, people must begin to speak out on this
issue. One example of a positive statement was made by Reuvan
Hazak, a former high level Shin Bet official as well as being
a former Jerusalem city manager. While appearing on Israel TV
(Popolitika) several months ago Hazak stated that Jerusalem
is a divided city today and politically its future will remain
a divided city and that we should not be afraid of this. There
are senior Labour Party members of Knesset holding these views
as well. They should be encouraged to speak out.
- Secondly, public opinion polls should be carried out, asking
the public the kinds of questions listed above. These polls,
if conducted cautiously, should prove the hypotheses listed
above. The results of the polls should be widely published because
they will, in the end, help pave the road for negotiations over
- Jerusalem will never be a unified city unless it can be shared.
The possibility for sharing Jerusalem will only be met once
the two sides and their leaders cut down on the rhetoric which
polarizes and instead, begin to help the public, on both sides,
understand the true character of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a city
of two peoples which both claim national, historic and religious
rights to it. Real sharing can only be achieved by recognizing
the political reality which has existed here since 1967. Since
the overwhelming majority of Israelis really only care about
the Jewish parts of Jerusalem, let's concentrate on them and
recognize that the Palestinians today are willing to accept
rule over only their parts of the city. Jerusalem can stay physically
united. Infrastructures, economic development and some elements
of planning can be conducted jointly. Let Israel rule over Israeli
Jerusalem and let Palestine rule over Palestinian Jerusalem
and Jerusalem will become one city living in peace.