Tel Aviv: Israel is in the grip of a second intifada. A “united Jerusalem” is fast falling away in the absence of a physical barrier between the Arab and Jewish parts of the city. It is a city that is the focal point of terrorism. Arabs work in Jewish establishments across the city, and this could come to an end if the violence is not resolved amicably. Barriers are likely to destroy the economy.
Since Thursday, the police have instituted a kind of closure on the Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, however, without physical barriers it is difficult to prevent terrorists from infiltration and action. Those who remember the second intifada know this very well. There are countless number of ways to sneak into the western part of the city.
99 percent of the Palestinian population is not participating in the current round of fighting, however the remaining 1% is and that’s all that is required to escalate matters.
The tens of thousands of east Jerusalemites who commute to work in Israeli hospitals, pharmacies, will now be viewed with suspicion and might even lose their jobs throwing the economy into a tailspin and providing even more reason for upsurge in violence – for an unemployed man will have a grievance that he would like to settle.
When the Israeli government drew up the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem after the 1967 war – and after the construction of the separation fence 10 years ago – it essentially annexed a quarter of a million Palestinians, granting them the status of permanent residents. Today, east Jerusalemites make up one-fifth of the Muslim population of Israel even though they do not identify emotionally with the Jewish state.
Israel could place police officers wherever needed. It could erect concrete barricades and checkpoints at the entry points to every Palestinian village in Jerusalem. But when the distance between a Jewish neighborhood and a Palestinian area is just a matter of a few meters, only a fence or a wall could provide security.
There is no chance that a government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu would dare place a physical barrier in Jerusalem that would effectively divide the city, which means that the Palestinian knife-wielding assailants could continue to wander around the city as freely as they wish. Nonetheless, it is strange that this government, with all its bluster and bravado, doesn’t adopt tougher measures to serve as a deterrent.
What is being referred to here as a “wave of terrorism” (a more fitting name has yet to be agreed upon) will apparently continue into the foreseeable future. It’s important to keep Hamas in Gaza, the armed rejectionist groups in Judea and Samaria, and the Arabs of Israel out of this current round of clashes. Israel should instead focus on the heart of the problem, which is Jerusalem.
There are no absolute solutions. It is quite obvious that a better diplomatic atmosphere would calm tensions on the ground, but it is simply impossible to create such an atmosphere given the current Israeli and Palestinian leadership. That is why Israel must continue to fight this form of terrorism with whatever means are available with the understanding that it will not go away anytime soon.