Land Grabs in Jerusalem


Ethan Bronner and Isabel Kershner have an interesting report in The New York Times:

Israel is quietly carrying out a $100 million, multiyear development plan in some of the most significant religious and national heritage sites just outside the walled Old City here as part of an effort to strengthen the status of Jerusalem as its capital.

The plan, parts of which have been outsourced to a private group that is simultaneously buying up Palestinian property for Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem, has drawn almost no public or international scrutiny. However, certain elements related to it — the threatened destruction of unauthorized Palestinian housing in the redevelopment areas, for example — have brought widespread condemnation.

In Israel’s presentation of itself to the United States, it typically portrays itself as desperately seeking a peaceful accommodation with the Palestinians, and full of regret that internal political developments on the Palestinian side make it impossible to strike a deal. These sorts of actions, however, are the actions of a government that actually welcomes such adverse political developments on the Palestinian side because they alleviate pressure on Israel to reach a peaceful accommodation with the Palestinians. Absent such pressure, these continued efforts at land grabs can continue apace.

Meanwhile, to be clear the issue is not the right of a Jewish state to have a capital located in Jerusalem. The issue is that state’s efforts to monopolize Jerusalem rather than allow a portion of it to become an independent Palestinian city. Needless to say, all this is incredibly short-sighted. A Jewish state that controls a larger portion of Jerusalem at the price of condemning itself to long-run collapse is not worth very much. Israel’s self-presentation as a peace-seeking state is something it would do well to turn into reality.