What's behind Israeli's extension of Jewish control over holy city
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To hear Israeli officials tell it, each of their successive moves on Jerusalem was merely a "routine" reflection of an immutable fact -- that a Jcenterpiece in the 1967 fighting is not about to let Arab negotiators, or US Mediators, turn back the clock.Skip to next paragraph
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Israeli government officials note that the most controversial of their recent actions -- the announced revival of the post-1967-war campaign to dot formerly Arab areas of the city with stark Jewish apartment blocks -- had been on the drawing board for years. The minutes of the committee that drew up Israeli's official town plan for Jerusalem (both the minutes and the plan were obtained by the Monitor) indeed show a clear intention to plant the residential settlement of Neve Yaacov South on the undulating Arab hills in the northeast of the annexed city area.
The planning documents earmark three other tracts of predominantly Arab land, totaling some 2,000 acres, for development schemes likely to involve further expropriations.
To nearly everyone but the Begin government, and particularly to local Palestinian leaders whom Washington would like to lure into peace negotiations, Israel's reaffirmation of claims to all Jerusalem seemed anything but routine. The timing of the expropriation announcement for Neve Yaacov South, amid escalating violence on the West Bank and Egyptian demands that east Jerusalem Arabs at least get to vote in eventual autonomy elections, was seen as anything but accidental.
Even come Israelis seemed to smell a diplomatic rat. The hefty expropriation move, said the Jerusalem Post, was an "invitation to a showdown," the opening salvo in "the final round in the battle for Jerusamel which began in the  Six-Day War."
"The principal object of this [start on Neve Yaacov South] . . . is to establish the Israeli presence in east Jerusalem so firmly that the reunited city could never be divided again," commented the Post.
Prominent Jerusalem Palestinians went further. "The Americans keep telling us that if we negotiate in good faith, we will get a just peace," said one Palestinian politician. "But even Washington, which gives Israel billions of dollars in aid, can not keep settlements from going up on the West Bank.
"And on the issue of Arab Jerusalem, which for us is the key to the whole peace process, Israel spits in the Americans' faces and in our faces. The Israelis want to take so much of our land, and settle so many Jews on it, so that no one can ever make a just peace."
Inhabited some 4,500 years ago by shepherd people determined to keep other shepherd people from edging with the scorch of summer westward from the Jordan Valley's desert floor, the spring-fed hill settlement of Jerusalem has always found peace -- "just" or otherwise -- elusive.
When the Jewish King David overran the fortress town 1,000 years before Jesus , he hastened to make Jerusalem the ancient political equivalent of Washington, D.C., to keep his 12 client tribes from bickering over it. Some 20 times since, the city's towering walls have come tumbling down.
Fiece convictions of its holiness have fed conflict. The Jewish patriarch Abraham is thought to have sacrified his son Isaac in the vicinity, on the rocky eastern heights where the city began. On that spot Solomon built the first Jewish temple, destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 B.C. Under Persian patronage , the temple was rebuilt some five decades later. This time it was the Romans who tumbled it, and chased out the Jews, 70 years after Jesus' birth.
Jesus worshipped here. And he was crucified here, mounting the twisting cobbled streets inside the walls up to the cross.
When Muhammad founded Islam, in what is now western Saudi Arabia some six centuries later, he too, turned his eyes toward Jerusalem. As later Muslim writings have it, the prophet ascended to heaven only yards from the Wailing Wall, the sole surviving remnant of the Jewish temple complex.