Israel's Isolationist Trend 8.11.2008

Israel's isolationist trend

Jakarta Post, Indonesia | Mon, 08/11/2008

In recent months, Jerusalem has suffered three terror attacks, one by an armed terrorist on a Jewish religious seminary and two attacks perpetrated by heavy equipment operators who used their construction vehicles to cause death and injury in downtown Jerusalem.

The common denominator of these attacks was their execution by individuals who were apparently not acting on behalf of any known terror organization but on their own.

The terrorists were Palestinian Arabs, residents of Jerusalem with a blue Israeli identity card who, for reasons known only to them, decided to kill and maim innocent citizens learning in school or walking the streets.

In a way, what we are witnessing is a privatization of terror, or, when viewed by many Palestinians, a privatization of the struggle against the occupation.

Palestinians in Jerusalem, and correct to June 2008 there are 290,000 of them (more than 1/3 of the population in the city) feel politically disenfranchised, even more than their brethren in Gaza and the West Bank who at least have a semblance of self government, dysfunctional as the remnants of the Palestinian Authority may presently be.

While being eligible for Israeli social insurance benefits, Jerusalem's Palestinians have no citizenship and their vote in Palestinian Authority elections is subject to ad-hoc restrictions.

They have traditionally boycotted the vote they have in Jerusalem's municipal elections despite the fact, that would they act as a collective they could easily elect the mayor of Jerusalem on their own.

Israel's shortsightedness when redrawing the city boundaries after Jerusalem's reunification in the wake of the six-day war in 1967 by including large areas settled by Palestinians, appears finally to raise serious concerns. Even Israel's beleaguered Prime Minister Olmert, a former mayor of the city, has hinted that the status-quo is not sustainable.

That has not prevented the Israeli government from putting up a separation barrier isolating other Palestinians living in villages around Jerusalem and making access to the city and its services extremely difficult. The barrier was put up to prevent terrorists from entering the city from the West-Bank, an aim that has been largely accomplished.

Unfortunately, the continuing impasse in the peace process, combined with the ongoing pressure on the Palestinian population in the city and the crippling separation from the outlying areas, is now beginning to radicalize Palestinian city dwellers who are showing an increasing willingness to sacrifice themselves to protest against this untenable situation.

Since the beginning of this year there has been a three-fold increase in security based detentions among East-Jerusalem's Palestinians when compared to the average of the last 7 years.

Israel's continuing effort to isolate itself against terrorism while maintaining the occupation will become more and more difficult as the Palestinian population in Jerusalem and possibly the Arab population within Israel's borders as well, will feel an increasing need to support the Palestinians in the occupied territories and make Israel pay the price for its stubborn unwillingness to give up the occupation.

The deep divisions between Hamas and Fatah in the Palestinian Authority, the leadership vacuum among the Palestinians and the faltering administration of Israeli Prime Minister Olmert who just announced his willingness to resign to preempt being forced out of office on graft charges, make any progress towards a peaceful settlement in the near future extremely unlikely thus further increasing the likelihood of terrorist activity in Jerusalem.

The incoming U.S. administration will have to address the Palestinian issue at the top of it's agenda and not let it suffer the benign neglect of the wasted years of the Bush administration.

Barak Obama, the candidate who presently appears to have the edge among voters in the upcoming U.S. elections and who just visited Jerusalem, has recognized that missing out on a chance for Peace between a Jewish and democratic Israel and all Arab states is madness. For the time being, all that is left to do is to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

The writer is a retired Israeli diplomat who served in Southeast Asia from 2000-2003

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