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The Case Against Dividing Jerusalem

I believe that Israel’s long-term survival hinges on reaching a settlement with the Palestinians (and that achieving such a settlement is, not insignificantly, also a vital interest of the United States). I believe this will necessarily involve sharing sovereignty over Jerusalem. I recognize that doing so involves profound risks for Israel, but I think that the alternatives are even more dangerous. Still, given the risks that sharing Jerusalem entails, one can, I think, only recommend this course with a great deal of humility and no small amount of trepidation. In an article that should give any thinking dove pause, Ha’aretz’s Nadav Shragai makes the case that dividing Jerusalem would be a disaster:

…It is impossible to talk again and again about the hundreds of thousands of Jews who visit the Old City and Western Wall without explaining that this will stop once Jerusalem is divided. It is impossible to fight for Jerusalem without telling the sorry tale of Rachel’s Tomb, which the Oslo Accords turned into a half-abandoned border post on the outskirts of Bethlehem. It is impossible to wage this battle without recalling the 19 years in which Jews were forbidden to visit their holy places, even though the armistice agreement with Jordan ostensibly guaranteed such visits.

There will be no safe, quiet houses in Neveh Yaakov, French Hill or Pisgat Ze’ev without control over “outlying neighborhoods” such as Shoafat and Beit Hanina, which abut them. There will be no safe shopping at Jerusalem’s Malkha Mall, no visits to the Biblical Zoo, no train rides from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and no peaceful houses in Givat Masua and Malkha without the adjacent “outlying neighborhood” of Walaja. There are also “outlying neighborhoods” adjoining Kibbutz Ramat Rachel, Talpiot and Har Homa. Beit Jala, the “outlying neighborhood” next to Gilo, was inhabited by thoroughly decent people, just as Walaja and Shoafat are — until one day (and this was before the rise of Hamas), it was taken over by armed gangs, who shot at Gilo from it every day.

Those who give the Palestinians control over the Temple Mount, the “outlying neighborhood” next to the Western Wall, will no longer be able to pray in peace at the Wall, or hold Memorial Day ceremonies or induction ceremonies for paratroopers there; nor will they be able to ensure the safety of the president or prime minister should either wish to participate in such ceremonies. Imagine the street battles in the alleys of Sajiyeh and Beit Hanun, in the Gaza Strip, transferred to the ancient streets of Jerusalem, which today teem with Jews. Think about how bar-mitzvah ceremonies or wedding pictures could be held at the Western Wall, or even plain old visits to place a note in the cracks, if Palestinians “controlled” the area a few hundred meters away

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