Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Gavriel Meir-Levi who has served in the IDF and is active in American politics. He is currently involved in creating social media for a State Senate campaign and completing his forthcoming memoir OBAMADOX about working on the Obama Campaign. He loves iPhone Apps.
Today, as many Jews in Israel and around the world celebrate the (conquest) reunification of (East) Jerusalem, it might seem ironic to look at the current situation in East Jerusalem as an opportunity for peace. Many esteemed figures such as Elie Wiesel have proposed that the issue of East Jerusalem should be pushed off in to the future as far as possible, while on the other end of the spectrum Ed Koch offers us his recent comparison of Jerusalem to a New York City with East Jerusalem as its “Arab Borough.” I leave it to you the reader to figure out if he means Queens or Staten Island.
The above notwithstanding, I believe the idea of looking at East Jerusalem with a fresh pair of eyes has a lot of merit. Rather than forcing the East Jerusalem Arabs to pick sides in which at least some would opt to stick with Israel, why not grant them citizenship in BOTH the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority? In stead of being at the center of a tug-of-war they could be a magnificent bridge between East and West.
A first step could be East Jerusalem residents voting in Jerusalem municipal elections as well as national Israeli elections, thereby finally receiving the public services from Israel they so need and deserve. At the same time, they could cast their votes as Palestinians and be allowed to take part in the unfolding drama of the Palestinian story with a mayor of their own. They would essentially be dual-nationals voting in two different states, not unlike the way as an Israeli-American I can vote both here and in Israel.
Slowly nurtured economic ties with the West Bank and the Arab World could lead to increased trade and foreign investment – imagine train service from East Jerusalem to Amman, Ramallah and Riyadh. Political self-determination could eventually allow East Jerusalem to become either fully Palestinian or Israeli, or to become a liminal Hong Kong-like gateway that is at once BOTH Israeli and Palestinian, yet neither.
Granting East Jerusalem independence would create a tremendous amount of goodwill towards Israel both from Washington and the Arab World and would give the citizens of East Jerusalem the dignity of citizenship and democratic representation they have never had as permanent residents, neither in Israel nor in the Palestinian Authority. And it would slowly create what both sides so desperately need: common ground.
I could not find any polling on the political preferences of East Jerusalem residents, but according to a recent Palestinian poll, 52% of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza agreed on the establishment of a Palestinian State within the total area of the 1967 borders yet only 21% supported making Jerusalem as the capital of two states: Palestine and Israel. Could this mean that the majority of Palestinians prefer Ramallah as their capital?
While Jerusalem should never be divided – be it by wall or policy, it definitely ought to be shared. What better day to share a gift than on the very day you received it? So let us hope to wish ALL the people of Jerusalem a Happy Jerusalem Day, from the West out to the East for though we are in the West, our hearts are in the East.