What's behind Israeli's extension of Jewish control over holy city
Haj Ali Khalaf arcs a spindly arm toward a tightening noose of Israeli housing on what was once Arab land. In 90 years in the world's holiest, and most fought-over, city, he has lost two homes (captured), acres of land (seized), and one son (exiled) to entrenching Israeli power.Skip to next paragraph
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"I pray for peace," he whispers, gazing toward the 16th-century city walls that lie near the eastern edge of modern Jerusalem. "But the Jews must stop taking our land."
Across town, Mrs. Rachel Lustig recalls truckloads of Jewish victims from a massacre of decades past, proof that it has taken both Arabs and to make Jerusalem the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict. She points toward the ancient Mount of Olives.
Her mother was -- is -- buried there. The Arabs, however, toppled the Jews' gravestones to mount a luxury hotel.
She, too, prays for peace. "We must find a way to live together, Jews and Arabs," she says, but argues that the Arabs could "get all of Jerusalem and still go on fighting us.
"Only Sadat has the courage for peace."m
Haj Ali Khalaf has since passed on, his prayers for peace unanswered. The sacred city of Jerusalem, even without gun battles or bombing raids, seems the focus of tension and conflict as never before.
In one corner is a tiny, mighty, and defiant Israel. In the other are local Palestinians and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, aware that he has virtually no chance of bringing other Arabs behind his peace initiative unless he can somehow undo israel's 1967 capture and annexation of the eastern Arab-held sector of the divided city.
In between stand United States negotiators. They argue that the final status of the city has yet to be negotiated, and view the eastern sector as under Israeli occupation. At the 1978 Camp David summit they packed away the "Jerusalem issue" for much later debate. But the package has been unraveling with a vengeance.
Israel has been doing most of the unraveling, determined that the city where the ancient Jews built and lost their Temple -- also where Jesus was crucified, and the Muslim prophet Muhammad is said to have ridden a fabled steed to heaven -- must remain their "united and eternal" capital. The chronology:
* In December of last year, Israel initiated moves to seize some 350 acres of land near the occupied West Bank village of Beit Hanina for a road adjoining a Jewish industrial development in northern Jerusalem.
* In March of 1980, with a sense of timing that had American negotiators banging their heads against Washington walls, the Israeli government announced it would also be taking some 1,000 acres of mostly Arab-owned Jerusalem land for the settlement town of Neve Yaacoy South. It was the first such major expropri ation moved in nearly a decade, and the second largest since Israel gained control of all the city and the adjacent West Bank of the Jordan River in the 1967 war.
* Some two months later, an ultranationalist Israeli politician proposed that the Knesset (parliament) reaffirm support for the Jewish state's unilateral 1967 annexation of Jerusalem (formally expanded at the time to include a part of the West Bank) as its capital. Neither Washington nor the rest of the world has accepted Israel's alteration of the city boundaries, much less the annexation.
* In June, officials around hard-line Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin revived talk of moving his office from predominantly Jewish west Jerusalem to the east of the city, the part wrested from Arab control in the 1967 Middle East war.
* In July, the Knesset's legal committee endorsed conservative backbencher Geula Cohen's draft bill tocement the Jewish claim to the entirety of Jerusalem, though it was her proposal that Egyptian President Sadat had cited as the catalyst for his May suspension of the Palestinian autonomy talks.
* Last week, on July 30, the Knesset passed the bill in full, thereby affirming into law a "united Jerusalem" as the capital of the Jewish state. because it objected to the law, Egypt for the second time in three months postponed the scheduled resumption of talks with Israel on Palestinian autonomy.