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Monday, May 14, 2007

The future commission of inquiry on Jerusalem

Nadav Shragai, one of Haaretz's token sane columnists, has a column today whose premise is that one day there will be a commission of inquiry on why we failed to unify Jerusalem and instead divided the city. It's unfortunate (to put it mildly) that so many Israelis take it for granted that one day we will divide the city! Here's some of what Shragai believes the commission will find:
The chapter on security will describe how Israel agreed in the past to allow the Palestinian Authority's security services to operate independently in Jerusalem, and how, over the years, this golem turned on its creator. It will also describe how Palestinian government offices began operating in the capital alongside the PA's various security and intelligence services.

The question of the Temple Mount - the Jewish people's holiest site - might be covered in the report's classified section, but a few sentences will nevertheless leak out. These will explain that the Muslims never expected in 1967 that Israel would grant them autonomy on the mount and forbid Jews to exercise their right to pray there. [In fact, the Muslims expected to be expelled from both the Temple Mount and from Mea'arat Ha'Machpeila - the Cave of the Patriarchs - in Hebron. That they weren't was the doing of leftist defense minister Moshe Dayan. CiJ] They will further note that Israel then allowed the status quo on the mount, which it initially upheld, to slip from its hands as well, by ignoring the construction of two additional underground mosques in the Temple Mount compound and acquiescing in the destruction of the remnants of the Jewish past at the Jewish people's holiest site.

A particularly painful chapter will address demography and the danger that Jerusalem's Jewish majority will be lost: Some 16,000 Jews abandon the city every year because of the high cost of housing and poor employment opportunities, even as dozens of plans for halting this negative migration gather dust on the shelves.

This decidedly downbeat report will also devote a few personal words to one man in particular: Ehud Barak, the first prime minister who publicly agreed to divide Jerusalem and the Old City and give the Palestinians sovereignty even over the Temple Mount. In recent years, the commission will write, Israeli leaders have raised the expectations of the conflict's other side to intolerable heights. They "wasted" the relatively broad consensus on the issue of Jerusalem that prevailed among Jews both here and abroad. They also astonished our best friend, the United States, with their light-mindedness when they unilaterally conceded the understanding that existed in Washington regarding Israel's Jewish interests in Jerusalem. The failure, the judges will conclude, was systemic. But their conclusion is likely to surprise: that instead of shrugging our shoulders in light of the city's "divided reality" and accepting it perforce, it is necessary to work to change this reality by taking steps to reunite Jerusalem. It is not yet too late.
We can only pray that Shragai is right that it is not too late.


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