When the capital city of Israel, with a growing population needs to expand, why does that set off int’l alarms & condemnation?
By NIR BARKAT, Mayor of Jerusalem
Jerusalem – Israel’s government is under heavy criticism for recently approving building permits in what the international community calls “the settlements.” Yet places like Ramat Shlomo, Gilo and Givat Ha’matos are well within the municipal borders of Jerusalem, and the virgin hills of “E-1″—between the city of Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim—have over three millennia of deep Jewish roots. Here in Jerusalem, we stand saddened and appalled by the European Union ministers who condemn these construction projects while ignoring calls from the leader of Hamas for the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel.
The international alarm about planned construction is based solely on the misplaced dreams of the Palestinians and their supporters for a divided Jerusalem.
When the people of Israel left Egypt and came to this region 3,500 years ago, each of the 12 tribes received a piece of land on which they built their cities and developed their ways of life. The exception to the rule was the holy city of Jerusalem, which wasn’t divided or given to any of the tribes. Jerusalem served all 12 Jewish tribes equally, as it did the people of other faiths who came to worship here.
Jerusalem became the de facto center of the world, managed by Hebrew kings for 1,000 years. All residents and pilgrims entering her gates were treated with honor and respect.
After the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in the year 70, the city traded hands from conqueror to conqueror—including the Babylonians, Assyrians, Turks, British and Jordanians—for two millennia. None of these rulers maintained the city’s freedom of religion, Jerusalem’s essence. These empires never adopted Jerusalem as their capital. The Jewish people, on the other hand—even in their darkest days, amid expulsions, pogroms, the Holocaust and waves of terror—have always comforted themselves with the saying: “Next year in Jerusalem.”
In 1967, Israel reunified its capital, Jerusalem, which had been divided between Israeli and Jordanian control since the Jewish state’s founding in 1948. Since then the city has maintained freedom of access, movement and religion. Peace-seeking pilgrims of all faiths can again visit the holy places without limitation or restriction. Tourism to Jerusalem is thriving, as is the city’s economy, and its per capita crime rate is among the world’s lowest.
Yet Israel and her capital are once again facing trials. Now more than ever, Israel and Jerusalem need real friends and real leaders. The threat we face now isn’t from foreign invaders, but rather from international diplomats seeking to locate a simple but incorrect solution to the complex relationship between Israel and the Palestinians. As far as Jerusalem is concerned, we must recall that no divided city in history has ever succeeded.
Isn’t it ironic that many in Europe who recently celebrated 25 years of the reunification of Berlin are at the same time calling for the division of another capital on another continent?
Despite tremendous international pressure and internal political risk, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stood up for a united Jerusalem.
By 2030, the city’s population will expand to one million residents from 800,000 today (33% Muslim, 2% Christian and 65% Jewish). Where does the world suggest we put these extra 200,000 residents? The expansion of Jerusalem’s residential areas is essential for the natural growth of all segments of our population. It enables Jewish and Arab families alike to grow and remain in the city. The capital of a sovereign nation cannot be expected to freeze growth rather than provide housing to families of all faiths eager to make their lives there.
As for “E-1,” this land has always been considered the natural site for the expansion of contiguous neighborhoods of metropolitan Jerusalem. “E-1” strengthens Jerusalem. It does not impede peace in our region. The international alarm about planned construction is based solely on the misplaced dreams of the Palestinians and their supporters for a divided Jerusalem.
Jerusalem has been and forever will be the heart and soul of the Jewish people. It is also the united and undivided capital of the state of Israel. The Jewish people and the Jewish state have a bumpy road ahead. We appreciate the support of our friends, and only through continued bold leadership at home—leadership willing to stand up to pressure from foreign capitals—will we get through this challenging time.
Mr. Barkat is the mayor of Jerusalem.
View original Wall Street Journal publication at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324024004578170023901240846.html?mod=googlenews_wsj