Arbitrarily altering a city’s boundaries based on demographic forecasts is hardly the way to manage a municipality. Instead, all of East Jerusalem should be rehabilitated.
Instead of fiddling with Jerusalem’s boundaries, the ministers and mayor should set in motion a plan to rehabilitate all East Jerusalem’s neighborhoods. That a Palestinian refugee camp, Shoafat, has existed for 50 years within Israel’s sovereign borders is inexcusable.
Ministers Zeev Elkin and Naftali Bennett are sponsoring legislation that would let the government change Jerusalem’s borders, making the Kafr Aqab and Shoafat refugee-camp neighborhoods that have been within the city’s boundaries for 50 years separate municipal entities.
Both ministers have impeccable records regarding their opposition to the division of Jerusalem, but still the legislation they’re trying to move through the Knesset at lightning speed constitutes a shrinking of the municipal boundaries of Israel’s capital by separating off certain neighborhoods. Like it or not, this is a division of Jerusalem. No wonder Mayor Nir Barkat objects.
As for the residents of Kafr Aqab and the Shoafat refugee camp, it’s adding insult to injury. The injury was the total neglect of these neighborhoods for 50 years, turning them into slums in which crime is rampant.
When some years ago walls were built that separated these neighborhoods from the rest of Jerusalem, they were in effect abandoned by the municipality and the state, becoming a no-man’s land. Most people in these neighborhoods are residents of Jerusalem and the State of Israel and have an option to apply for Israeli citizenship. Now Elkin and Bennett want to kick them out of Jerusalem.
The presumed motives behind this ill-conceived move are demographic forecasts for Jerusalem. As both ministers know, many demographic forecasts have turned out wrong. These may turn out wrong as well.