Eli Hazan is the Director of Communications and International Relations at the Israeli Likud Party. The content of his article does not reflect the official opinion of the AECR. Responsibility for the information and views expressed in the opinion piece lies entirely with the author.
In the 45 years since Jerusalem’s reunification, it seems that the consensus about keeping it unified has been eroded, even though a majority of the public today still wants to strengthen the city’s unity. Only a few years ago, there was an absolute consensus about the unity of Jerusalem. Even leftists who supported a division of the land said the city must not be divided.
One of the more outstanding views on this matter belonged to Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. In an interview a short time before he passed away, Ben-Gurion said that even if true peace prevailed, “Jerusalem and the Golan should not be returned.”
Those who carried on that view belonged to the central faction of the Labor party, which was led for many years by the late former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Rabin was joined later by then Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and his deputy Yossi Beilin, who proclaimed that “Jerusalem will not be divided.”
Since then, however, Beilin and others on the Left have come to the conclusion that the city must in fact be divided. Although this is a legitimate position and people may change their minds, we should recall several issues that testify to the fact that we have still not learned the lessons of the past.
Aside from the well-understood historical and religious significance of Jerusalem for the Jewish people, a unified Jerusalem is also a paramount security requirement. The Oslo Accords, the Gaza disengagement plan and the withdrawal from southern Lebanon proved that wherever the Israel Defense Forces pulled out, a terrorist network arose in its place and proceeded to attack Israel with lethal results. The same scenario may also occur if Jerusalem is divided, and in the Middle East such a reality is by no means science fiction.
The late former Prime Minister Menachem Begin said in 1948: “If the city remains divided, there will be no security in the city.” Reality, until 1967, proved him absolutely correct. Those who lived in neighborhoods along the divided city’s internal border before 1967 suffered the fear of constant terrorist attacks and will not forget the intolerable situation. When those who support dividing the city again promise an agreement that will enable residents to live their lives in safety, they should remember that the reality was different when Israel withdrew from territory in the past. And Jerusalem cannot be the next litmus test.
As for the claim that Jerusalem is already a divided city, the claim is disproved by the fact that Jews, Muslims and Christians move back and forth across the old division lines each day and move about freely in all areas of the city. Unlike the situation today, when the city was divided both freedom of religion and of movement were blatantly restricted. Are we aiming to restore that situation? Of course not.
So when we celebrate the city’s reunification for the 45th time, let us remember the great privilege we have to live in this unified city, and to wish all of its residents prosperity.