Published in The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle
Despite Prime Minister Olmert’s denials, Palestinian Authority leaders in recent weeks have told the world that they are already finalizing with the Israeli government a deal dividing Jerusalem.
We could well wake up one day to discover that a similar disaster to what we inflicted upon ourselves in Gaza is repeated in Jerusalem. And when the inevitable occurs, and Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are reunited,
we may find that western Jerusalem neighborhoods will be subject to missile attacks similar to those on Sderot and Ashkelon in the south. Much worse, the next time you try to cross from Western Jerusalem to visit or pray in the Western Wall or the Jewish Quarter in the Old city, you will need to ask permission from an armed Al-Aqsa Brigade (Fatah) or Hamas terrorist dressed in Palestinian police uniform stationed at the gates. How long will it be before Palestinians mobs attack the Western Wall, or an armed Palestinian policeman will fire at worshipers and tourists, and how long before additional Jewish antiquities under the Temple Mount will be removed and destroyed by the Palestinian Authority appointees?
And even if the negotiations have not already taken place, it is well known that at the Annapolis summit in November, the Israeli government agreed to discuss the future political status of Jerusalem by the end of 2008.
But the Israeli and the Jewish people are silent as if they suffer a collective amnesia as to what happened when Jerusalem was divided and was under Arab and Muslim rule, or they are in disbelief or denial that Jerusalem will be divided with its tragic consequences.
But even if these negotiations will not bear fruit, and even if the negotiations will lead only to a declaration of principles, never be implemented, by negotiating to divide our eternal capital, we give credence to the Palestinian and Arab revisionist view of history that, in the past, Jerusalem was the capital of an Arab or a Muslim state or any other non-Jewish political entity. Such acquiescence to their propaganda and lies would forever diminish our legitimate rights to the city, which is based on 3,000 years of actual history.
According to reports, the Israeli government is promoting a plan in which most or all Palestinian-populated neighborhoods in Eastern Jerusalem would be subtracted from the Israeli city and become part of a new, Palestinian capital. The plan would also divide the Old City between Israeli and Palestinian sovereignty, with the Muslim and Christian Quarters under Palestinian rule and the Armenian and Jewish Quarters under Israeli rule. Sovereignty over the Temple Mount would be divided between Palestinians and Jews, as well.
Attack after attack
Since its establishment, Israel and the Jewish people have repeatedly suffered from agreements transferring responsibility for Jewish holy places and cities to Arab or Palestinian rule.
According to the armistice agreement between Israel and Jordan, signed on April 3, 1949, Jordan, which occupied the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, including the Old City, agreed to allow Israel ”free access to the holy places and cultural institutions and use of the cemetery in the Mount of Olives.” In practice, for the following 19 years, Jews could not go to the Western Wall, Rachel’s Tomb, the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem (Nabulus) or other sites sacred to Jews .
Instead, from 1948 to 1967, Jordan expelled or killed all the Jews in the Old City and destroyed and ruined over 50 synagogues and converted other synagogues to chicken coops, stables and garbage dumps. The Western Wall was used as a place for slum-dwellers to set up shacks. Jordan also built a road across the Mount of Olives’ ancient cemetery, desecrating and destroying the resting a place of hundreds of Jews and using the headstones as paving stones or in construction.
Following the Oslo agreement, which was signed in 1993, and the 1994 Gaza-Jericho agreement, an Interim Agreement was signed in 1995 that stated that” The Palestinian Authority shall ensure Israel free access to all Jewish holy sites” in regions from which the Israeli army withdrew, including 23 sites of religious and/or archeological significance. In accordance with the agreement, Israel withdrew from six Palestinian cities and 450 villages and towns throughout the West bank. But the Palestinians either made access to these sites extremely difficult or impossible, or, in some cases, destroyed them.
In October 2000, Joseph ‘s Tomb in Nabulus was desecrated and set ablaze and under the watchful eyes of Palestinian police, and the 1,500-year-old “Shalom al Israel” synagogue in Jericho was also attacked and its holy books and relics burned.
Earlier, in September 1997, after the Palestinians began claiming that the Tomb of Rachel in Bethlehem was another mosque, and rioters led by the PA’s appointed governor of Bethlehem repeatedly attacked the tomb, trying to break in, Israel had to construct a concrete fortress protected by soldiers around the shrine. In 2000 and 2001, Fatah operatives and members of the PA security forces repeatedly attacked the fortified tomb with gunfire, which continued until the Israeli army returned back to the city in 2002 as part of Operation Defensive Shield. Jews now can visit the tomb, which lies just 500 yards from Jerusalem, only in bulletproof vehicles under military supervision.
Furthermore, in Gaza, within hours of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal in August 2005, Palestinian mobs set ablaze or converted into mosques every synagogue that remained.
In 1967, after Israel unified the city, the Israeli government granted the Muslim Waqf administrative authority over the Temple Mount to care for the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. In 1999, the Muslim Waqf, consisting of PA appointees, abused its authority by bringing to the mount a fleet of bulldozers and trucks to dig a hole from which 600 tons of earth were removed and scattered with reckless disregard at dump sites. Jewish archaeologists believe that the material may have included antiquities from the First and Second Temples. The Muslim Waqf has also built a third mosque below the surface of the Temple Mount, which can house 10,000 worshipers, in the area known as Solomon’s Stables. It was the first mosque to be constructed on this site in the last 1,000 years. In 2007, the Waqf officials dug a trench where the Temple courtyards used to be located, removing some 400 tons of dirt, again containing priceless archeological artifacts.
If while under full Israel sovereignty the PA and its appointees have been attempting to erase the evidence of the long Jewish history, it is frightening to contemplate what they would do under Olmert’s “shared” sovereignty plan.
Ever since the Oslo agreement, the PA has repeatedly claimed in schoolbooks and its official media that neither the Western Wall nor the Temple Mount are holy places to the Jews, but are, instead, Muslim Shrines called Al- Buraq Wall and Haram Al Sharif, respectively, and that Jerusalem has been always an Arab city. It has refused in any negotiations with Israel even to agree that Jews have any historical claim or connection to Jerusalem. This is not surprising, considering that Palestinian leader Abu Mazen, in the ongoing negotiations with Israel, refuses even to acknowledge that Israel is a Jewish state.
Christian holy sites and populations also continue to be endangered wherever Palestinians gain control. Christian towns and churches, including the sacred Church of the Nativity, have been used as bases for Palestinian snipers and launching sites for terrorist attacks. Bethlehem quickly lost its Christian majority, as those citizens steadily fled Muslim oppression. On Temple Mount, the Islamic Waqf grants Christians and Jews only limited access and prohibits any form of non Islamic prayer.
Recipe for disaster
Those who wish to divide Jerusalem to make the city Jewish, demographically speaking, should be reminded that since 1844 the Jews have been the largest religious group in Jerusalem. Those who believe we can have shared sovereignty in the Old City should be reminded that the Old City is one square mile, and the Quarters’ territories are intertwined. Such close proximity will bring only conflict and bloodshed to a city that was peaceful and protective of all religious sites during the last 41 years of Israeli rule.
Historically, Jerusalem has only been the capital of a Jewish state. For thousands of years, Jews swore not to forget her. What will you say to future generations when they ask you: What you did when they were negotiating to divide Jerusalem ?.