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Jerusalem, Our Capital



The following facts and figures (as of 1993/94) on Israeli activities concerning Jerusalem, its status and its character, have to be seen in the context of the general Israeli policy towards Jerusalem which has been to separate it from the rest of the West Bank. According to the Declaration of Principles signed between the PLO and Israel in September 1993, Jerusalem is one of the remaining issues that will be negotiated in the final phase. The Israeli government is constantly violating its commitment by stressing that Jerusalem will remain undivided under Israeli control and be the eternal capital of Israel. Thus, Rabin does not leave anything to negotiate about Jerusalem. To view the current status of annexation as final and to ignore the importance of Jerusalem for Palestinians not only violates the DoP but also contradicts international law and various UN resolutions. One should keep in mind that there will be no peace without a solution for Jerusalem.

Historical View: The Changing Face of Jerusalem

The general belief that West Jerusalem had been Jewish when the city was divided in 1948, ignores the reality on the ground. In the course of an Israeli campaign to "clean" their part of the city, some 64,000-80,000 Palestinians were forcibly driven out of West Jerusalem including four villages (Lifta, Deir Yassin, Ein Kerem, al-Malha) in its immediate vicinity. Properties left were declared "absentee property". Today, for Example, the Knesset, some ministries, and the Sonesta and Hilton Hotels are built on former Lifta land. The Hadassah Hospital as well as Yad Vashem were erected on land belonging to Palestinians from Ein Kerem. The Israeli Independence Park was erected on a Moslem cemetery of the former Mamillan neighborhood. The Stadium and the Jerusalem Mall are built on al-Malha land. In 1948, 40% of the property of West Jerusalem belonged to Palestinians, 34% to the Waqf [Moslem Religious Administration], Churches and the Government of Palestine, and only 26% belonged to Jews.

Since 1967, and despite UN resolutions condemning Israeli changes to the city, control of Jerusalem has been the cornerstone of Israeli policy in Palestinian territory. The strategy of "Judaization" has involved colonization of the Old City, its immediate and extended surroundings, and building suburbs with new road links in order to heavily populate the metropolitan area of annexed East Jerusalem.

Since 1967, an estimated 50,000 Jerusalem Palestinians (not including their relatives and those residents who were not counted in the 1967 census or who "lost" their Jerusalem residency rights as a result of Israeli procedures) have been forcibly evicted form their houses and driven outside the municipal boundaries or outside the country. In the Old City alone more than 6,000 Palestinian were evicted. Israeli bulldozers leveled 135 Palestinian houses to create the plaza in front of the Western Wall, leaving more than 600 families homeless.

In 1967, the Knesset annexed 70,000 dunums of East Jerusalem and surrounding village land to the state of Israel's territory (added to the 38,000 dunums of West Jerusalem at that time). Today, the area of Jerusalem is 123,000 dunums.

Israeli law dispossesses all non-Jerusalem Palestinians of their property in annexed Jerusalem. Even if he lives just outside the annexed zone, a Palestinian is classified as "absentee" and his property is expropriated.

Since 1967, 86% of East Jerusalem has been removed from Palestinian control and use: 34% of the land of East Jerusalem has been expropriated for the building of Jewish settlements (approx. 7.250 acres); 8% has been designated for expropriation for expanding these settlements; 44% is "green area" on which it is not allowed to build. Only about 13% of the land remains for the Arab neighborhoods.

Settlers have put the legal construction of "absentee property" to their use most effectively, particularly under the Likud administration which gave settlers preference in the allocation of houses declared to be state property under the "absentee" classification.

Since 1967, only around 12% of all new construction has taken place for Palestinians in the Arab sector. This gives an annual construction ratio of 2,200 apartments for Israelis to only 230 for Palestinians.

Jerusalem: Facts of Today

Israel has enforced a strict quota on Palestinian construction in East Jerusalem, allowing them to build on only 13% of the area and only with prior permission from the Israeli Authorities of the West Jerusalem Municipality (WJM). That translates into an average of 3.5 meters of land per Palestinian resident in East Jerusalem. The remaining 87% is either used for Jewish settlement or remains an area where construction is prohibited (see above)79% of East Jerusalem is already under direct Israeli control.

On the expropriated land, 60,000 housing units were built for Jews and not one Palestinians.

Restricting Palestinian construction aims at maintaining the city's percentage of Palestinian residents at around 26-28%, a limitation which was adopted by the government's ministerial committee in 1973. It has ensured that today, Palestinians amount to no more of the city's population than they did in 1967 (25.8% in 1967, 28% in 1995).

Another discriminatory limitation for Palestinians is that the building height in Jewish neighborhoods is allowed to be 8 storeys high while in Palestinian areas this may not exceed 2 storeys.

70,000 Jewish settler families in East Jerusalem benefited from subsidized/public housing whereas only 555 Palestinian families did.

Due to the lack of available land to build on and the fact that obtaining building permits in East Jerusalem is almost impossible, many Palestinians are forced to build their houses without a permit and are thus subject to house demolition. Although only some of these houses were actually (and arbitrarily) destroyed (since the beginning of the Intifada more than 200) hundreds of families live under threat of demolition. Demolitions of Palestinian homes are currently carried out at a rate of about 50 per year. This and the restrictive measures concerning Palestinian building has forced to date more than 21,000 families to live in caves, tents or overcrowded and inadequate conditions. ...

In March 1993, Israel imposed a closure on the West Bank and Gaza denying Palestinians entrance to Israel, access to Jerusalem and free movement between the southern and northern part of the West Bank. The closure is a grave violation of the rights of the Palestinian people and constitutes the collective punishment of some 1.8 million people. This policy contravenes Israel's obligation under international law, especially Section 43 of the Hague Regulations which requires Israel to provide for the welfare and orderly life of the residents of the Occupied Territories. The closure deprives thousands of people form reaching their workplaces (approx. 116,000 Palestinians from the Occupied Territories worked in Israel before the closure), thus depriving them of their income, medical, educational and economic services as well as religious sites. On several occasions, such as Jewish holidays, or after military attacks against Israeli targets, the Israeli government institutes a complete closure of the Occupied Territories canceling all existing permits for entering Jerusalem or Israel under the pretext of needed security guarantees.

The Declaration of Principles on Interim the Self-Government Arrangements (Oslo Agreement), signed by the PLO and Israel in September 1993, states that the permanent status negotiations will commence not later than the beginning of the third year of the interim period and will cover all remaining issues including Jerusalem. Article V, 4 reads: "The two parties agree that the outcome of the permanent status negotiations should not be prejudiced or preempted by agreements reached for the interim period." Despite this and notwithstanding the declared change in national priorities of the Rabin administration, the Israeli government has continued its policy of land confiscation, house demolitions and has only recently (22 January 1995) decided to allow the continuation of settlements expansion, including East Jerusalem.

On December 26, 1994, the Knesset passed the final reading of the "Gaza-Jericho Agreement Implementation Law (Limiting of Activities)" by a vote of 56 to 6 with 32 abstentions. The law prohibits Palestinian political activities in East Jerusalem and therefore violates the Oslo Agreement. Any institution--local or foreign--which includes the PLO must have Israeli permission to set up an office. This violates the Oslo Agreement and contradicts the secret letter of assurances set by Foreign Minister Peres to the Norwegian foreign Minister Holst (October 11, 1993) in which Peres confirmed the "great importance" of Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem saying "we will not hamper their activity".

Between November 1967 and February 1995, 64,870 housing compilations (=88%, = 122,367 housing units) were built for Jews/in Jewish neighborhoods, while in the same period, only 8,890 housing completions (=12%, = 21,490 housing units) were built for Palestinians /in Palestinian neighborhoods.

In 1993, a total of 2,720 housing units were built in Jerusalem, only 3,8% or 103 housing units of which in Palestinian neighborhoods.

As of February 1995, there were 20,900 residential units in Palestinian neighborhoods for ca. 156,000 Palestinians residing in East Jerusalem, while 160,000 Jewish settlers had 38,500 residential units - almost twice as much - at their disposal.

Housing density (average): Palestinians: 2.2 persons/room (32.3% more than 3 persons/room);

Jews: : 1.1 persons/room.

Source: PASSIA - Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs

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