Sunday, May 09, 2010

MYTH: "East Jerusalem should be part of a Palestinian state because all its residents are Palestinian Arabs and no Jews have ever lived there."

The following is from Myths and Facts by Prof. Mitchell Bard--posted with permission:
"East Jerusalem should be part of a Palestinian state because all its residents are Palestinian Arabs and no Jews have ever lived there."
Before 1865, the entire population of Jerusalem lived behind the Old City walls (what today would be considered part of the eastern part of the city). Later, the city started to expand beyond the walls because of population growth, and both Jews and Arabs began to build in new areas of the city.

By the time of partition, a thriving Jewish community was living in the eastern part of Jerusalem, an area that included the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. This area of the city also contains many sites of importance to the Jewish religion, including the City of David, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. In addition, major institutions such as Hebrew University and the original Hadassah Hospital are on Mount Scopus - in eastern Jerusalem.

The only time that the eastern part of Jerusalem was exclusively Arab was between 1949 and 1967, and that was because Jordan occupied the area and forcibly expelled all the Jews.

In March 2010, during a visit to Israel by Vice President Joseph Biden, the Israeli government announced the construction of 1,600 apartments in the Jerusalem suburb of Ramat Shlomo. The United States strongly condemned the announcement and the continued Israeli construction in East Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized for the timing of the announcement. Israel's detractors have claimed Israel's expansion in East Jerusalem represents a violation of the Road Map and prevents peace, despite the fact that Israel is adhering to its unprecedented moratorium on West Bank settlement, previous peace talks were not impeded by construction and every Israeli government since 1967 has supported the development of the Nation's capital.

Moreover, the subject of the controversy, Ramat Shlomo, is located north of Jerusalem and not in East Jerusalem. It is a community of 16,000 Orthodox Jews. It is not a fledgling settlement, rather an established community that is considered a consensus settlement - a municipality that is expected to remain part of Israel's capital in any peace agreement. While the timing of the announcement was unfortunate, the project has been in the planning stage for three years - and actual construction is not expected to begin for another three years. The construction will not disrupt the lives of Palestinians, as the community is entirely Jewish and the chosen location is an empty valley.23a

23a Ron Prosor, "Commentary: The Response to Israel's Announcement is Disporportionate,", (March 18, 2010); Abe Selig, "Ramat Shlomo Residents Don't Understand What All the Fuss is About," Jerusalem Post, (March 11, 2010).

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