Middle East Roundtable /
Behind the smokescreen:
A Palestinian View
by Ghassan Khatib
Israeli plan for a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza is creating plenty of
excitement and lots of attention among the Israeli and international
publics, the Palestinians are worried that, among other things, that plan is
serving as a smokescreen to cover up dramatic changes and developments in
the West Bank, especially in and around Jerusalem.
The reason for this is that, while talking about vacating settlements with
less than 2,000 housing units in Gaza, Israel has been busy constructing,
this year alone, something like 6,400 housing units in illegal settlements
in the West Bank, mostly centered on Jerusalem.
A further expression of Israeli attempts to achieve certain objectives in
Jerusalem is the crazy and illegal idea of building this ugly wall
separating one neighborhood from another in this "unified city of
Jerusalem". This wall separates houses from houses, people and children from
their schools and hospitals and in general makes life miserable without
achieving any of the security, demographic or political objectives of the
occupation. The continuing acquisition of land in Jerusalem and continuing
depriving people of their basic right of urban development only serve to
create further frustration, anger and hostility between two peoples who
desire to live in one city.
If there is any illusion in Israel or elsewhere that peace and two states
are possible while Jerusalem is still occupied, it should be made clear that
this is not the case. Jerusalem is the soul of the Palestinian homeland, not
only for religious, historical and spiritual reasons, but also because it is
geographically central and plays a significant economic role due to the
importance of tourism.
The continuation of the illegal Judaization of the city through efforts to
alter its demographic balance and nature and suppressing its Palestinian
citizens in order to force them out, is only backfiring. The harder Israel
pushes, the closer the attachment of Palestinians to their capital and the
greater the determination of Palestinians to make all and any effort toward
ending the Israeli occupation of that important part of their country.
This Israeli government has lost any sense of propriety in its attempts to
be "victorious" where all previous governments have failed, i.e., with
regard to the control of East Jerusalem. It has reached a point where the
Israeli government and the prime minister's office even appear to have been
part of illegal deals, aimed at appropriating properties in the occupied
part of the city.
After 38 years of occupation and unceasing efforts to make occupied East
Jerusalem a part of Israel and of the so-called unified Jerusalem, Israel
must realize that this is doomed to failure. East Jerusalem was, is and will
remain a Palestinian Arab city as much as Ramallah, Jenin or Gaza City.
Israel must come to terms with international legality, which considers the
city to be under a belligerent military occupation.
Thus, Israel has two options as far Jerusalem as is concerned to arrive at a
peaceful settlement: either it gives up its occupation of the eastern part
of the city, or it allows for a unified Jerusalem to be the capital of both
Palestine and Israel with free access for both peoples.- Published
13/6/2005 (c) bitterlemons.org
Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet
publications. He is the Palestinian Authority minister of planning and has
been a political analyst and media contact for many years.
Bitterlemons-international.org is an internet
forum for an array of world perspectives on the Middle East and its
specific concerns. It aspires to engender greater understanding about
the Middle East region and open a new common space for world thinkers
and political leaders to present their viewpoints and initiatives on the
region. Editors Ghassan Khatib and Yossi Alpher can be reached at