Israel’s leaders infected with “Jerusalem Syndrome”

by Yaniv Reich on November 22, 2009

What is Jerusalem Syndrome? Its the curious affliction that infects some visitors to Jerusalem whereby they believe themselves the sudden implementers of divine will. According to Akiva Eldar, Israel’s leaders have been infected with this debilitating illness for decades now, “affecting their ability to distinguish between reality and fantasy”.

For many of those affected by this disturbing disease, it extends beyond Jerusalem. It begins with the transformation of an Arab village in the middle of the West Bank into a “Jerusalem neighborhood,” and ends with the description of occupied territory in the heart of the West Bank, like Ariel, as “a settlement bloc.” First we shape a new reality for ourselves; then we expect the entire world to adopt it, demand that our neighbors pay the cost, and complain that we have no partner for peace.

What could they possibly want from us? That was the combined reaction of the president, the mayor, the cabinet ministers and the head of the opposition. After all, they said, Gilo is at the heart of the Israeli consensus.

And what is the reality? Eldar continues:

What does that consensus mean? Reminder: In June 1967 Israel annexed to Jerusalem some 70 square kilometers of West Bank territory, including 28 Palestinian municipalities and villages that were never considered part of the city.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat complained loudly about the Obama administration, which he claimed discriminates between the residents of the city “on the basis of religion and ethnicity.” It is hard to imagine that Barkat is not aware that by law, only Israeli citizens, or those entitled to citizenship on the basis of the Law of Return, are entitled to purchase a plot of what is considered state land. Since the Palestinians in East Jerusalem are city residents but almost none are citizens of the country, they are not entitled to purchase plots in a third of the lands that have been expropriated from them in order to set up Israeli neighborhoods/settlements. The result: The residential density in Arab neighborhoods is nearly double that in Jewish neighborhoods (11.9 square meters per person compared to 23.8 square meters per person).

In a democratic society like the one in Israel, it is understood that the unification of the two parts of the city carries with it equality for all its residents. But in actuality, nearly half the Palestinian students in East Jerusalem do not study in the municipal education system; some 9,000 of them do not appear on the records of the city’s education authorities, and it is not known whether they receive any form of education. The Education Ministry and the Jerusalem municipality have promised the Supreme Court that they will build at least 645 classrooms in East Jerusalem to start making up for the shortfall; more than 1,350 classrooms are needed. In practice, less than 100 new classrooms have been built. To this day, filth, neglect and unpaved roads clearly mark the border between the two peoples living in the city.
According to our peace-loving president [Shimon Peres], since Jerusalem is at the core of Israeli consensus, the Arabs must not only adjust their own consensus regarding Jerusalem but also agree that in the meantime, until we agree to allow the issue to be brought to the negotiating table, we should continue to behave in East Jerusalem as though it is ours, and only ours.

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