In the 1990s Yitzhak Rabin, a military strategist who later became a political one, declared that the “Arabs” must never be allowed to exceed 20 per cent of Israel’s population. At that point, he feared, their claims for minority rights, or even plain equal rights, might be lent too great a legitimacy.
Although nationally Rabin’s line has been held – just about – with Israel’s Palestinian citizens, it has been severely breached in Jerusalem. Numbering about 260,000, Palestinians comprise a third of the city’s population, even after decades of Israel gerrymandering the municipal borders and building large Jewish settlements on every available green space in East Jerusalem…
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Israel refuses to concede defeat, however. It has intensified policies designed to strengthen its hold over the eastern half of the city and drive out Palestinians: the Wall has made the city inaccessible to many Palestinians with Jerusalem IDs; Palestinian areas are deprived of services, especially education, and infrastructure; Palestinians building permits are denied and home demolitions ruthlessly enforced; the breakdown of social order is encouraged, and criminal activity aided, including with the spread of drugs; and all political and much cultural activity by Palestinians is treated as illegal .
In addition, Israel has also recently stepped up its work with settler organisations to penetrate Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem, both in the Old City and in the neighbourhoods huddled outside the walls of the Old City. The goal is twofold: to cut Palestinians off from their holy places and thereby weaken their connection to the city; and to make it impossible for the international community to divide Jerusalem, as implied by the two-state solution.
Israel wants this latest settlement drive to look like the work of individual rogue settlers; in truth, the government, municipality, the police and the courts are all closely involved in overseeing and supporting the settlers’ efforts, many of which are illegal even by Israel’s skewed standards.
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