If I forget thee, O Jerusalem

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My red line when contemplating the Oslo III accord of the future with the Palestinians is uncompromised Israeli sovereignty and control over united Jerusalem. The shearing of Jerusalem into Arab and Jewish sovereignties would turn it into the bull’s eye of Mideast battle – a city that would make Belfast at its worst look like paradise.

Published in Israel Hayom on Jerusalem Day, 28 Iyar 5773, May 8, 2013.


Sixteen years ago I moved out of Jerusalem, and the move yet weighs heavily on my conscience.

We were the classic Jerusalem casualty: A growing family forced out by the high cost of housing. But I’m still a die-hard romanticist who made aliyah to Jerusalem, still pines for Jerusalem, still travels to Jerusalem as often as possible, and knows that Jerusalem (not hi-tech, bohemian Tel Aviv) is the heart and soul of Israel. I know that the city must not be abandoned to the Arabs, or to the Ultra-Orthodox, or to the sophisticated diplomatic negotiators who would divide, internationalize, and otherwise destroy the city.

The clash of ideologies and eschatological yearnings, the plethora of conflicting cultural and religious institutions, the genuine search for meaning – these make Jerusalem an intense, stimulating and fulfilling, if sometimes perilous, place.

Although I can no longer vote in Jerusalem municipal elections, I’m determined to remain a Jerusalemite. And so I take the family up to Jerusalem often – for the spiritual and cultural uplift, for the mystique of Jerusalem’s old neighborhoods at night, for prayer in proximity to the Temple Mount (and one day, G-d willing, on the Temple Mount), for the observance of religious holidays, for Jerusalem national day celebrations, and for family events.

It worries me that many people seem to have forgotten why a united Jerusalem under exclusive Israeli sovereignty is the key, not an obstacle, to peace and security in the region. Too many Israelis and international observers are buying into the ridiculous presumption that splitting Jerusalem will lead to prosperity for the city and to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

The truth is just the opposite: A partitioned Jerusalem will die. The city will be destroyed in every way – culturally, religiously, economically and more.

Moreover, the shearing of Jerusalem into Arab and Jewish sovereignties will turn it into the bull’s eye of Mideast battle – a city that will make Belfast at its worst look like paradise. The main reason for this is that any section of the city under Arab rule will immediately become Ground Zero for the fierce wars being waged within the Arab world over Islamic lifestyle, ideology and legitimacy.

Just who is going to rule in eastern Jerusalem? Will it be the declining secular Palestinian national movement (whose sway in the West Bank is tentative at best), or the radical Islamist Hamas (which openly seeks Israel’s destruction), or the annihilationist Al-Qaeda affiliated forces (who are growing in strength in Sinai, Syria and the territories), or the radical Israeli Arab Islamic movement (which has been the main force behind unrest on the Temple Mount), or the weak Jordanians, or the hostile Saudis?

Each of these forces will seek to prove its supremacy and bolster its legitimacy in the Islamic world through control of Arab Jerusalem and aggression against what remains of Jewish Jerusalem. What better way to prove one’s loyalty to the Islamic cause than to attack the rump Israeli presence in the city? And with bases of operations to work from in the eastern half of the city such terrorism will be irresistibly tantalizing.

What Israeli family is going to walk with its kids to the Western Wall on Friday night through checkpoints and alleyways patrolled by Palestinian police? What Birthright group is going to shop in the Mamilla pedestrian mall below Jaffa Gate with Palestinian or Arab League sharpshooters on the Old City walls above? What American church group is going to march along the Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem’s Christian and Moslems Quarters with Hamas or Saudi modesty patrols harassing the women? What hi-tech company is going to invest in Jerusalem when the Kassam missiles start flying from Sheikh Jarrah into Har Hotzvim?

Only complete Israeli security control over united, greater Jerusalem prevents the city from becoming a boiling cauldron of conflict within the volatile Arab and Islamic world, and from becoming the hottest-ever-imaginable flashpoint of Israeli-Arab war. There is no neutral peacekeeping force in the world that will do a serious or better job than the Israeli army and police of keeping Jerusalem a terrorist-free zone.

Remember this too: Jerusalem under Israel – and only under Israel – has flourished. For Jews, Muslims, Christians, scholars, clergymen, craftsmen, architects, artists, archaeologists and tourists alike, the past 46 years have been good times. Israel has sagaciously developed the city from a backwater town to a magnificent metropolis, and astutely kept it open and expanded the possibilities for religious worship of all faiths. Israel has, most of the time, managed the complicated city with sophistication and sensitivity.

Let me be even blunter: Israel has developed Jerusalem as a workable, attractive city because it is the centerpiece of the ancient Jewish People and the modern State of Israel. The Arabs and Palestinians, however, don’t really care about Jerusalem; they never did. In fact, they would consider it a triumph if Jerusalem were so wracked by conflict and poverty that it was ruined for 1,000 years – just as long as it would be lost to the Jews.

Thus, the sundering of Jerusalem would be not only unfair to Jewish history and to Israel’s fine stewardship of the city, but patently unwise. Woe would be a divided Jerusalem.

Everyone has some “red lines” when contemplating the Oslo III accord of the future with the Palestinians. My red line is uncompromised Israeli sovereignty and control over united Jerusalem. I’ll be there, if necessary, to man the barricades. If I forget thee, O Jerusalem…

David M. Weinberg is a think tank director, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »
A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker

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