by Ziad AbuZayyad
Israel is celebrating these days what it calls the “unification of Jerusalem” and what the Palestinians call the occupation and unilateral annexation of Arab Jerusalem by Israel. Call it what you will; the facts on the ground show that, despite 40 years of Israeli occupation, the city is still divided. Palestinians and Israelis exist as two separate societies in the city. The gap is widening — socially, economically and in all other aspects of life. No one from one side of the city feels secure and relaxed on the other side.
The Palestinians are subjected to discrimination by different Israeli authorities. The policy of the Israeli Ministry of the Interior is to limit by all possible means the Palestinian population’s right to obtain Jerusalem residency permits. The objective is to prevent the growth of the Arab population and to force them to leave the city. The Palestinians call this policy ethnic cleansing. The Municipality is using all possible methods to cease granting building licenses to prevent Palestinian construction in the city. At the same time, both the Ministry and the Municipality are accelerating the process of increasing the number of Jewish residents and Jewish neighborhoods in the Arab part of the city. Israel considers the Palestinian residents — who were not granted Israeli citizenship when Israel annexed the city — Jordanian citizens holding permanent residency visas (with blue Israeli identity cards, as opposed to orange ones for the residents of the occupied territories). These residents are considered a threat to Israel’s policy of converting Jerusalem into a Jewish city.
Jerusalem is a core issue in the conflict. No one side can have the monopoly of control over the entire city and have peace and security at the same time. It remains an unresolved issue, at the top of the agenda of any serious negotiations aimed at ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. And without a fair and just solution to the problem of Jerusalem, based on parity, mutual respect and coexistence, the prospects of a real peace will continue to elude us.