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"If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem"

Published in The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle

Despite the Rabin government’s promise that Jerusalem will never be divided again and that the city will remain the eternal capital of Israel, recent events should worry every Jew on that score. The Palestinian Authority has begun a war on the unity of Jerusalem, and the Israeli government has done very little to fight back.

According to the Oslo agreement between Israel and the PLO, following a short period of Palestinian self rule in Gaza and the West Bank, the final and permanent status of the territories and Jerusalem will be determined. However, despite the written agreement, Prime Minister Rabin has claimed repeatedly that Jerusalem will never be divided again and that the Palestinians will never have

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their capital in East Jerusalem. At the same time, Yasser Arafat has insisted that the Rabin government is committed to negotiating the final status of Jerusalem ( since otherwise a lasting “peace” will never be achieved).

Usually, I dismiss and mistrust much statement by Arafat. But recent events alarm me that possibly the Rabin government does, indeed, intend to divide Jerusalem. According to recent Israeli newspaper reports, secret documents, dated June 21 and agreed upon by Israel and the PLO, state that Israel agrees that, upon the expansion of Palestinian autonomy, Arab Palestinians of East Jerusalem will pay their taxes to the Palestinian Authority and not to the Israeli Treasury. Furthermore, it was agreed that” it is better to avoid publishing such documents and to avoid attaching a political meaning to the agreement concerning the permanent status of East Jerusalem Arabs.”

The Israeli government denies such an agreement has been made . But if true , it is worrisome . Everyone knows that one of the most significant powers of a sovereign is the power to levy taxes.

After the signing of this agreement with Israel, Arafat issued a call for a jihad to liberate Jerusalem, causing uproar among the Israeli public. So now Arafat has learned to change his tactics, although his goal of claiming Jerusalem remains the same. It seems that he and the Palestinian Authority are determined to enlarge the Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem before the final status talks begin by purchasing property and establishing political institutions in the city.

Just recently, it was reported that a secret company was established by the Palestinian Authority to purchase property in Jerusalem. Arafat gave it $15 million, but its activity was to remain secret. Moreover, members of the Palestinian Authority Intelligence staff were arrested in Jerusalem for establishing a police station there. The staffers investigated people and collected money from East Jerusalem Arabs. It reportedly transferred many people to Jericho for further Interrogation. About a month ago, Arafat announced that he would activate the Arab Jerusalem Municipal Council so it could function as it did before 1967. Shimon Peres, Israel ‘s foreign Minister , again minimized the importance of such an announcement.

He stated that the council will not be allowed to operate, and further , “ What the Palestinian Authority decides or says has no value , since Jerusalem is outside the Palestinian Authority purview.” If that is true , why has the Israeli government allowed foreign dignitaries to meet Palestinian leaders in the Orient House” in east Jerusalem? For many Palestinians, the “Orient House” is seen as the “foreign ministry” of the Palestinian Authority. And yet , according to the Oslo agreement , Palestinians are forbidden from holding any negotiations or diplomatic meetings in Jerusalem. Therefore, the various diplomatic activities conducted from the Orient House constitute a challenge to Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.

The Israeli government has threatened that it would halt provocative activities at the Orient House, but they continue, and despite the number of serious violations that have taken place, the government has not suspended its talks with the PLO on expanding self- rule. This year Jerusalem is celebrating 3000 years as the spiritual capital of the Jewish people. For thousands of years, Jews longed for the city and promised never to forget it. Among Israelis, there is a broad consensus that all of Jerusalem must remain under Israel’s control. However, the Rabin government’s actions cast doubt on whether Jerusalem will stay undivided for long.