The headline “Jerusalem is Burning” has been seen more than a few times in the history of Judaism. The first and second temples and the first and second Intifada are the obvious. Historical anecdotes of who is arguing while the city burns sees Rabbi’s two thousand years ago and the Knesset today. Times have not changed. Someone else other than Jews wish to take control of the city. Jewish leaders debate and wanton destruction ensues. The past two months have witnessed a troubling deterioration in the security situation in Jerusalem. This trend has been reflected in rising tension between the Jewish and Arab residents of the city and the increasingly frequent perpetration of acts of protest and violence by residents of East Jerusalem.
The root of the problem is the application of the term East Jerusalem and its geographic demarcation by the government of the State of Israel. Exacerbating the problem is the government’s declared policy intent of “Two states for two nations.” Inferred is the acceptance that the other state will have East Jerusalem as its capital. The man in the street in East Jerusalem has taken this at face value. East Jerusalem is his turf, his state, his capital. The government of the State of Israel has given it to him in public broadcasts. They see the purchase of homes by Jews in this area as a violation of their personal space, their turf, their sovereignty and the promises of the government of the State of Israel. Using the threat of force or actual force against the protesters be they police or army will not resolve the fundamental and inherent dichotomy. It will pour oil on the fire because the entry of police and army into this area and the Temple Mount is also seen as a violation of their personal space, their turf, their sovereignty and the promises of the government of the State of Israel.
So what can be done. Israel needs to educate the population of East Jerusalem, the controller of the Temple Mount (Jordan), the religious leaders and the political leaders in the Palestinian Authority. Israel needs to undertake an intensive public diplomacy and information operations campaign. The salient points are as follows:
Two states for two nations means that there is the freedom of movement of goods, services, technology and people between the two states. Peace means coexistence and not separation. So there is no status quo of the Temple Mount. Jews can have as much access to it as anyone else.
The Rabbi and the Waqf will administrate the Temple Mount and not the Kingdom of Jordan. Representatives of Jordan should have no rights to undertake any activities either in Israel or Palestine. The residents of East Jerusalem are now citizens of the state of Israel, they are not citizens of Jordan. The will be citizens of Palestine and not of Jordan. The Temple Mount is the sovereignty of the One G-D recognized by both the Rabbi’s and the Waqf as the same and only G-D. It is not the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Jordan.
Jerusalem is one municipal district. The purpose of having a light rail line system and stations in East Jerusalem is to enable those residents quick, cheap, clean and efficient transport to the Temple Mount, to health, social care and education facilities throughout the city. They should respect this. The Jerusalem municipality provides all of this as well as law and order undertaken by it’s police force whose members consists of many religions. Protesters should not view the police as an Israeli authority but as a Jerusalem authority to maintain law and order for all residents. As citizens of Israel, residents of East Jerusalem may express their dissatisfaction through non-violent means: The pen is mightier than the sword.
Last but not least, there must be no restriction on who buys houses and who lives where he wishes to. Should East Jerusalem non-Jews demand exclusivity on their turf, then they should expect that West Jerusalem Jews to demand exclusivity on their turf. In parallel, the Israeli government, in conjunction with the Jerusalem municipality, should draw up a comprehensive plan to address the fundamental problems of having a City that is capital to two states. Alternatively the two state solution should be addressed to its true worth; a political statement that has passed its sell-by date and that can scarcely be implemented. Putting out the fires in Jerusalem is a priority lest it expand nation-wide and lest more radical elements enter the fray. It would only take one suicide bomber from The Islamic State to turn the fires into an inferno that is engulfing other states throughout the Middle East.
Glen Segell is Fellow at the Ezri Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies, University of Haifa.