THE SPINE MARCH 16, 2010
Yes, many—likely most—Israelis want this or that part of the city to go ultimately to the Palestinian Authority, a larger portion more forthcoming than less… But none want any of it to go to Hamas. Who will be the legatee, however, is not something that Israel has the ability to decide.
Some Israelis want the whole of Jerusalem to remain under their sovereignty. That is neither feasible nor desirable.
The opportunities are very small, indeed. The Arabs are enraged, although they are easily enraged and have been enraged for decades. Since the mid-1800s, Jerusalem has had a Jewish majority. (This is an index of how important the Muslims’ “third holiest city” truly was to them.) In any case, it also has a (substantial) Jewish majority now, even though Palestinians have been surreptitiously moving into a Jerusalem controlled by Israel.
Why are they doing that? There is only one reason, and it is that these Palestinians do not want to live under Palestinian sovereignty. And who is to blame them? Do you think a single one of the Arab citizens of Israel will make aliyah to Palestine? Or are you crazy?
Frankly, the major difficulty is that the Jewish neighborhoods and the Arab neighborhoods are interlocked, like one hand folded into another. They are now more interlocked than ever. There is no clean way to separate between peoples, especially between angry peoples. And the bald truth is that Palestinians can be called out to riot at the drop of a hat. In fact, they are rioting right now.
Pity the cartographers who will have to draw the maps. At the end of 2000 and the beginning of 2001, the mapmakers drew lines that split Old City neighborhoods in half. The P.A. was assigned two sides of the Armenian Quarter, and Israel the dividing road between the two.
Here is a conflict between two demographies. The Palestinians have an empty vastness to the east of the city and adjoining it. Let them build there and attach whatever they build to their Jerusalem. Just as the Israelis built westward. The few areas of real estate in conflict are, indeed, really few.
Barack Obama has tried to enforce his hyperhysteria on the subject by, well, hyperhysteria. He even thinks he can force a change in the Israeli government. But, on Jerusalem, for all their differences, the major political parties are united. Labor, Bibi’s natural opposition, will not unconditionally cede the future of the city to Arab whims or Obama’s fantasies. Anyway, it’s in the government. More importantly, Kadima, which is Bibi’s natural ally, is out of the government and in opposition; it, too, supports building in Jerusalem--modestly, to be sure. Israel is united on this. It is a factor the Obami must contend with.