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Thursday, October 22, 2009

The 'reverse commuter'

In the US, we used to refer to people who commuted from the city to suburbia as 'reverse commuters.' Their commutes were inevitably 'against the traffic.' 'Reverse commutes' are relatively rare in Israel, partly because things are so close together. In terms of distance, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and Tel Aviv and Haifa are each commutable to each other. So are Jerusalem and Ramallah.

The 'Palestinian Authority' has a reverse commuter who holds a key position. His name is Salam Fayyad and his title is Prime Minister. His wife has a Jerusalem residency permit and therefore he lives in Beit Hanina, just a few minutes away from where I live (literally) on land that was either purchased from Hebrew University or on land owned by Jews on which his wife's family built illegally (it's not clear from the article which it is).
I contacted Danny Ben-Simon, director of the Israeli government press office to ask him whether Fayyad’s living in Beit Hanina undermines Israel’s claim of sovereignty over all of Jerusalem. He responded, “It is quite understood within the context of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, that there are going to be small ironies and this is one of them....in negotiations, everyone has opening positions. We [the Israelis] have our opening positions. We don’t expect all of our opening positions are ones that will be finally agreed upon...”

When contacted, Kadima Knesset member, Otniel Schneller, an orthodox Jew, said, “When there will be negotiations over Jerusalem...if [Beit Hanina] becomes a Palestinian state, then Fayyad will continue to live there, and if not, he can live under Israeli sovereignty and be the Prime Minister of a Palestinian state. On our side [Israel’s], there is no apartheid.”

Prior to 1948, many Jews owned property in Beit Hanina. As Aryeh King, director of the Israel Land Fund, said, “Hundreds of dunams of land in Beit Hanina belonged to Shmuel Salant, the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, and when the Jordanians had control over it [between 1948-1967], they built on it. Since ‘67, the land has been controlled by the Israeli government, and it has let Arabs build homes on it, many without permits...Today there is only one apartment building with Jews living in Beit Hanina”

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Mount Scopus once also owned land in Beit Hanina. But, in 2004, Hebrew University sold almost 96 dunams (24 acres) of land in Beit Hanina and the neighboring Shuafat to a Palestinian company owned by a Palestinian bank.

Schneller added that the fact that Fayyad lives in Beit Hanina, and Hebrew University sold its land there, “may in fact influence the final status of Beit Hanina.”
Some of you may recall that I'm not exactly a fan of Otniel Schneller....

For there to ever be an agreement between Israel and the 'Palestinians,' two things will likely have to happen. First, Israeli Jews will have to be able to continue to live in places like Ofra and Beit El and Shilo and Tekoa (all outside the 'security fence') and commute safely to their jobs in Jerusalem, even if they are technically living in an area under 'Palestinian' sovereignty, just like Fayyad lives in an area under Israeli sovereignty.

And second, Israel would need rock-solid currently impossible assurances that Beit Hanina would not become a staging ground to use the Hebrew University's Mount Scopus campus - which is even closer to it than I am - for target practice.

There is no sign of either of those conditions being fulfilled in the conceivable future. In fact, they're not likely to ever be fulfilled, because the 'Palestinians' real goal is to destroy the Jewish state and not to live in peace with it.


At 9:00 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

If the Palestinians really wanted peace with Israel, it wouldn't matter where its leaders lived. Since they don't, that must never be allowed to happen. If Jews' rights aren't protected, its hard to see why Israel should give the Palestinians what basically amounts to special treatment. And there is no sign the Palestinians are going to give up their aversion to sharing the land with the Jews well into the future.

At 3:14 PM, Blogger Sunlight said...

This is actually another effective argument: Palis live inside the green line, so Israeli Jews should be able to live under Pali administration. It would be excellent to do a title search on Fayyed's property to determine the exact status to use as counterpoint ( so 1)legitimately bought from Jewish owners or 2)built without purchase - either would provide counterpoints...)

Also, a topographic map (visual) showing where the "settlements" are, the title search info, and how they could relate to preventing ROCKETS would be very useful. For example, I actually had never thought of the prospect of rockets on Hebrew U. - good point.

I'd also suggest putting the fence location on the topographic map to show 1) prevention of random crossing and 2) line-of-sight issues (preventing shooting on roadways and Jewish neighborhoods). Also a pullout info box showing the process of fence crossing for local residents and how many Palis are actually separated by the fence from land they own (again, title search) or from close family members.

This basic info, combined with the rocket effects and protection info, would give Israel advocates (including the UK guy who used the word Rockets but had no info to share) quotable, factual arguments. Call it an Atlas.


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