An essential part of any future peace deal between Israel and Palestine is some kind of shared status for occupied Jerusalem, under which the city will become the capital of both Israel and Palestine, and its holy places will be open to all to come and worship. But the details of how this may work have never been sorted out and the city’s final status remains one of the most difficult parts of any possible agreement.
The Israelis are well aware of this and many officials are working hard to ensure that no shared solution will be possible. The Israeli mayor of occupied Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, recently said that its Arab residents should forget about ever having a capital in occupied Jerusalem and insultingly suggested that they rename Ramallah, as “Jerusalem” or “north Jerusalem”. Just in case no one got his point, he rammed it home with the comment: “There is no such thing” as a Palestinian sovereign role in occupied Jerusalem.
The Israelis work hard at reinforcing their occupation by moving Palestinians out of their homeland and implanting Israeli colonists in their place. Netanyahu’s government will like to evict the Palestinian population of occupied Jerusalem and its latest move is to support a controversial property law that can enable the state to seize what it defines as unoccupied houses, which can give it the ability to take up to 40 per cent of the Palestinian private property in occupied Jerusalem and then hand them over to Israeli colonists. In addition, in recent weeks, the authorities have revived a policy of demolishing Palestinian homes built without permits, ending an unofficial moratorium on home demolitions in response to US criticism.
So when Israel’s chief negotiator Tzipi Livni says that she is hopeful talks will resume with the Palestinians despite “elements” within the Israeli government, it is important that the Palestinians remind her that actions speak louder than words and any negotiations have to happen with a complete halt to any furthering of the occupation while talks start.