Israeli Manipulation of the Issue of Jerusalem

  • 21 February 2009

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recently stated that Jerusalem would the last issue to be negotiated in the framework of the final settlement talks between Palestinians and Israelis. This suggests that Israel is resorting to deception and trickery over the “Jerusalem issue.” It is seeking to buy time to carry out its malicious plan of ‘judaizing’ the city to rob it of its Arab and Muslim identity, so that when the time for negotiations arrives—i.e. whenever Israel believes the time is right—the Palestinians will be left with nothing to negotiate for. Israel could then easily enforce its argument of fait accompli and get the support of international parties to agree to this policy, as has already happened in other issues, such as those related to refugees and settlements.

It is true that the delay in negotiations on difficult issues is part of a strategy to avoid reaching a difficult obstacle in the initial phases, which could lead to an early breakdown in talks. However, facts related to the Jerusalem issue seem different for the following reasons. Firstly, Jerusalem is one of the final settlement issues, on which negotiations have been defferred from the very beginning of the peace process and has been pushed until its final phase. Therefore, now is the right time to negotiate the issue, but Israel wants to put a new arrangement for the negotiation process related to final settlement through which some affairs are taken up, while others are deferred. The issue Jerusalem falls in the latter category. This arrangement will delay negotiations endlessly.

Secondly, one of the basic principles for any negotiation is that all parties abstain from taking any decision that could alter ground realities and affect the negotiating positions during the course of the talks. A status quo should be maintained. However, Israel is unabashedly carrying out its plans to ‘judaize’ Jerusalem, even as calls are being made for negotiations on the final situation, and Olmert is talking about delaying negotiations related to Jerusalem.

Thirdly, Israel’s stated position shows that it is hiding its intent to carry out lasting damage on Jerusalem. Therefore, it is calling for a delay in negotiations and is seeking to raise “fear” among Palestinians, Arab, and Muslims. In this context, one can understand the determination of the Palestinian party that is against any further delay in negotiations over Jerusalem.

Israel is misleading others by playing for time and is maneuvering its position in a way that would make the negotiation process redundant because it wants peace on its own terms that does not respect any agreements, conventions, or international legitimacy.