Thursday, November 11, 2010

I agree with Jeffrey Goldberg, but ...

I have already said here that Jeffrey Goldberg is one of my intellectual heroes, but in a recent post on his blog I think he oversimplifies the situation of Jerusalem.
Man, this is getting dreary. One reason, as I've explained, that I don't post more on the peace process is that there isn't actually much of a peace process on which to post. But, Jerusalem. Yes, it is true that "Jerusalem," as Jews understand the word, is not a settlement; it is the center of Jewish history, culture and religion. But what does "Jerusalem" mean as a practical matter? Does it mean neighborhoods far from the Temple Mount  that have been Arab for hundreds of years? Does it mean neighborhoods far from the Temple Mount that no Jew visits? Yes, of course, all the Land of Israel is holy to Jews, and yes, of course, Jews lived in these places long before Arabs (and yes, it is true that Jews were ethnically cleansed from many of these places by Arabs in 1948) but the possession of land is not the only Jewish value, particularly land that provokes no overwhelming feeling of Jewish connection. At prayer, when we announce to God our deep love of His holy city, are we really talking about Abu Dis and Isawiya?
Well, I don't think anyone in Israel is talking about Abu Dis as being part of Jerusalem since it's both outside of the municipal border and also on the other side of the security barrier, and as for Isawiya, I honestly don't know.

Like I said I mostly agree with what he said here, but like most things here it's just not that simple.

The real question is what do you mean when you say "divide" Jerusalem. If dividing Jerusalem means letting the old city, the holy basin, the Mount of Olives, and other important sites slip out of Israeli control, I imagine most Israelis would oppose it. I also assume that the Palestinians have some almost identical formulation.

Additionally, it is a more complicated question than simply drawing a new line and putting one religious shrine on one side and putting a different religious shrine on the other. All of these sites and the different neighborhoods are literally built on top of each other.

What this means is that if you want to control all those sites that are honestly and authentically important to Israel and the Jewish people, you also have to control all the area that allows access and control of those sites.

Basically Israel needs to control certain Arab neighborhoods even though it might not feel any overwhelming attachment to those places. All of this is why I have been coming round to the position that Jerusalem can't be divided.

I have to profess, though, that I'm not an expert on this issue. You should really read Yaacov Lozowick who has done a great job covering this subject.

Now, all that being said, I really have no idea why anyone is getting upset about the recent announcement of plans to build new homes in places like Har Homa, Ramat Shlomo, and other neighborhoods. None of those places are close to built up Arab areas, and none of them in anyway prevent a division of Jerusalem. A million other reasons prevent it, but not those particular neighborhoods.

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