The illegal changes that the Israeli occupier is undertaking in East Jerusalem have far-reaching consequences, not only for the day-to-day life of the Palestinian people, but also for the possibility of peace between the two sides.
It is debatable whether Israel "realizes" that a Palestinian state without East Jerusalem as its capitol is no solution for Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims. Either its right-wing power structure knows this and is intent on sabotaging the two-state solution, or it is arrogant and thinks that Palestinians will be forced to accept whatever they get in the long run.
In recent years, Israel has undertaken dramatic steps to transform the eastern part of the city, confiscating land, building illegal settlements in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods, demolishing Palestinian homes, and carrying out illegal administrative changes.
Just this week, the Knesset passed the first reading of a bill that would privatize Israel’s national parks, a back-handed move to legitimize a settlement organization’s control over the City of David archeological park in Silwan. The presence of the settlers in this neighborhood has made Palestinians’ lives a living hell, as tunnels are dug under their homes, houses are threatened with demolition, children are arrested in disproportionate numbers and armed guards patrol the streets. Ultimately, 88 Palestinian homes will likely be demolished in Silwan to make way for this park and the accompanying Jewish settlers.
Once again, we see that Israel is hardly concerned about further blocking negotiations with Palestinians, who have repeatedly stated their opposition to talks as long as settlement construction continues.
These short-sighted policies are catering to Israeli society’s continuing political drift rightward. They are also, however, eliminating the possibilities for an end to the conflict. Israel is taking advantage of the recent relatively weak international reaction to its violations (remember when international protests stalled the building of Har Homa settlement at Jabal Abu Gneim?) to carry out policies that are the settlers’ dream.
Nor can we ignore the negative effects of these Israeli policies on the day-to-day life and standard of living of Palestinians in East Jerusalem. Despite the difficult conditions facing the Palestinian Authority, social and economic indicators show that the rest of the West Bank’s towns and cities (which are under Palestinian Authority administration) have fared far better than Palestinians in East Jerusalem. Fewer children drop out of school, fewer people are addicted to drugs, and poverty is often lower in cities under Palestinian Authority control.
If these Israeli practices–all of which work to further separate East Jerusalem socially and economically from the rest of the Palestinian territories–continue, then East Jerusalem might be changed to an extent that it cannot be the capital of the future Palestinian state. There will be no two-state solution with Jerusalem outside of the equation. What Israel must understand and–more importantly what the international community must also understand–is that Israel’s objectives of "Judaizing" the city, changing its character and severing it from the rest of the West Bank, will spell the death knell of the two-state solution. So far, Israel is facing very little resistance.
Immediate international intervention is needed to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law and signed agreements. This is the only way to rescue the future of peace. Making statements that East Jerusalem should be the capital of the Palestinian state is simply not good enough. These pronouncements must be translated into messages of the kind that Israel appears to understand; otherwise, they will have no effect and it will all be too late.