|“In truth, Jerusalem is liberated. Jerusalem is a safe, open, democratic city,” President Trump stated when presenting his ‘peace plan’ in the White House, a few moments after declaring that Jerusalem in its entirety would remain under Israeli sovereignty. Without a doubt, this description of the city was one of the high points of absurdity that Trump concocted together with Prime Minister Netanyahu.
A plan which is determined with the participation of exclusively one party is not a peace plan, therefore it is no surprise the Palestinians have completely rejected it. The plan's greater harm, however, is the legitimization it has provided to the right-wing settler agenda, whose major influence can be seen throughout the plan.
In Jerusalem in particular, where two peoples share a common urban space with immense historical, political and religious significance for both sides, unilateral moves that do not take into account the mutual physical and symbolic attachments to the city, will only generate more conflict and hostility and ultimately jeopardize an agreed resolution.
In her latest op-ed, published in Haaretz Hebrew, Ir Amim's Executive Director, Yudith Oppenheimer, expounds on the plan's implications for Jerusalem and the current reality on the ground:
“Here are a few facts about this so-called ‘open and democratic’ city of Jerusalem:
Currently, Jerusalem’s 340,000 Palestinian residents are devoid of the right to participate in the Israeli democratic process, and it's doubtful they will ever receive this right in the future. Over decades, Israel has done everything possible to reduce the number of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. As these residents continued to cling to their city in spite of the severe restrictions on building, the systematic neglect of their neighborhoods, the discrimination, and constant threat to their residency status, Israel built the Separation Barrier inside the Palestinian space of Jerusalem, leaving eight East Jerusalem neighborhoods outside the barrier. In this manner, Israel guaranteed itself a fictitious and more advantageous demographic prior to proposing a ‘democratic Jerusalem.’
An acute housing crisis, prompted by discriminatory restrictions on building, has forced approximately a third of the residents of East Jerusalem to move to the neighborhoods that were intentionally left outside the Separation Barrier, due to being able to build there with little interference. As a result of longstanding municipal neglect of the neighborhoods beyond the barrier, ghettos of poverty and distress have sprung up within East Jerusalem, but separated from it by the barrier.
The approximately 140,000 residents of these neighborhoods beyond the barrier were aware of the trap that had been laid for them, yet had no choice but to fall into it. That’s how it is when one’s life is turned upside down and hangs on a thread- the survival of today is the black hole of tomorrow.
On January 28, 2020, their nightmare became a reality. In one breath, Trump granted Israel exclusive control over Jerusalem, designated the Separation Barrier as a demographic border, and consigned the neighborhoods beyond the barrier to a no less fictitious reality- both geographically and politically- of a fragmented capital comprised of these neighborhoods and the area of Abu-Dis.
Offering Palestinians an expanded Abu-Dis plan as a substitute for Al-Quds is the height of cynicism. It is a conjured-up Israeli construct that has been recycled so many times it is an already hackneyed idea. Indeed, Israeli efforts to invent a ‘Palestinian Jerusalem’ outside of Jerusalem, have yet to cease, and it goes without saying that no Muslim country of any importance has ever been willing to buy into this notion.
Trump's plan will ultimately bring disaster to all of Jerusalem. Jerusalem will only become an open, secure, and democratic city when we recognize it for what it is – the home and the capital of two peoples.”