Friday, December 09, 2016

Israeli cabinet makes move to strengthen hold on Jerusalem


By Haley Paladino - July 03, 2014
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Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [Collective Punishment]

Jerusalem Day parade at the Damascus Gate in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. Photo (archive) by Lazar Simeonov.

The Israeli Cabinet approved an $87 million (NIS 300 million) plan for enhanced Israeli security, economic development, infrastructure and education in East Jerusalem. The plan's stated purpose is to thwart "any possibility that the city would be divided as part of a future accord," and echoes Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennet's plan to annex East Jerusalem and Area C, essentially undercutting any possibility of a two-state solution, according to Ha'aretz

The plan comes after a report on East Jerusalem, commissioned by the Prime Minister's Office, Shin Bet, the Israeli Construction and Housing Ministry, Jerusalem Police Department, and several other agencies, found violence in East Jerusalem to be the result of the Israeli government's inability to "govern areas under its sovereignty effectively" and calls for "uncompromising enforcement and punishment against those who seek to undermine Israeli control in these areas."

While the report laments rock-throwing and nationalistic violence, it does not take into account failed peace talks, increased plans for settlements, or other political factors in its considerations of the causes of this violence. 

Increased security is the focal point of the plan, with $27.5 million of the $87 million appropriated for improved security of Jewish enclaves in East Jerusalem, in the form of enhanced surveillance and police presence. These measures will most likely be accompanied by stricter guidelines from the Israeli Justice Ministry on arrests and indictments, which are intended to bring about harsher punishments.

Funds will also be allotted for the improvement of school computers, career development and small business programs, and school Hebrew programs. 

"On a national level, this is an important contribution to the unity of Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, and the effort to remove the fear many visitors have of violent events occurring at important historic national sites. On the municipal level, it will help strengthen the feeling of belonging for east Jerusalem residents, strengthen municipal governance in the city’s eastern neighborhoods, and improve the security situation," the report reads

The plan's announcement has fallen on fatigued and skeptical ears among the Palestinian community. Many doubt the plan has any intention of benefiting the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem whatsoever.

"With the whole situation this morning, we really can't talk about development," said Amany Khalifa of Jerusalem-based NGO Grass Roots Jerusalem. "People are being killed and arrested everyday." 

The situation in Jerusalem has been tense and violent since the discovery on Monday of the bodies of three settlers who went missing over two weeks ago. Just hours after the teens were laid to rest, a Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir, 16, was kidnapped from the Shu’fat neighborhood of East Jerusalem. His charred body was found in a forest in West Jerusalem early yesterday morning. He was apparently burned alive. Protests, including stone throwing, have spread throughout East Jerusalem and up into the Palestinian villages in northern Israel. Mobs of Israeli youth have marched daily through Jerusalem calling for "Death to Arabs." 

Jerusalem is deeply contested, as both Palestinians and Israelis are not willing to concede the city as the capital of their respective states. Under the Kerry plan, the city would be split into two capitals, the West for Israel and the East for Palestinians.

East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel in the 1967 war and is still considered to be occupied land by the United Nations and major international human rights organizations. Today, the entire city is fully under Israeli control. Though Jerusalem is the birthplace and home of Palestinian residents of the city, they are considered "permanent residents" under Israeli law, which differs in terms of rights and services that citizens enjoy. Palestinians make up more than a third of the city's population and is growing at a faster rate than the Jewish population. Palestinians may apply for citizenship, but generally do not for political reasons. 

Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem have been neglected by the municipality since their annexation, and suffer from significantly insufficient investment in infrastructure. According to leading Israeli Human Rights organization B'Tselem, "Since the annexation of Jerusalem, the Municipality has built almost no new school, public building, or medical clinic for Palestinians. The lion's share of investment has been dedicated to the city's Jewish areas." Economic development of East Jerusalem has been further hindered by the apartheid wall, which severs historically integrated Palestinian areas. 

"The whole shape of the city has already been changed to connect most of Jerusalem to settlements in the South and in the North," Khalifa said. "I don't see how Palestinians will benefit from this plan."  

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