Israel defense minister proposes dividing Jerusalem

Israel’s defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has proposed that Jerusalem be divided for a time, in an attempt to force US President Donald Trump and his administration to rethink plans to relocate the U.S. Embassy to the city. In an interview with Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Lieberman suggested that the arrangement would be similar to South Africa’s apartheid system, stating that “the Palestinian should go to the Western Wall and the Israeli to the Old City.”

“Is there a ‘Grand Canyon’?” Lieberman asked. “The Palestinian would use it for movement between the two sides, but for a short time. The Israelis would use it to fix an electricity line and a water reservoir. The same would apply for a Wall Street bridge.”

In support of his idea, Lieberman cited a “state of exception” that was imposed in London after the “Final Solution” and a concept first proposed by Herman Kahn, a Holocaust survivor who served as the minister of foreign affairs for the early 1980s. “Everyone, especially the Palestinians, understand that as long as there is an American Consulate for Palestinians, there will be no American Consulate for Israel,” he said.

“We do not need a consulate [for Palestinians] in Gaza,” Lieberman added. “We don’t need a consulate in Ramallah, Nablus or Tulkarm. In Arab capitals like Amman, Cairo, Beirut, Istanbul and Riyadh, there is an American Consulate.”

In his long-awaited speech in which he formally backed Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Trump claimed that “no previous president has been so carelessly and insensitively taken advantage of by Israel’s enemies.” But earlier this week, the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, said that American diplomats are prepared to work closely with Jerusalem’s authority, in an attempt to ensure American safety and the security of American diplomats. Lieberman claimed, however, that they are too late, and that the move by the Trump administration was “harmful and historic.”

Earlier this year, Israel’s conservative Knesset member David Bitan said that “No one will back down from our statement in the Knesset that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people. Trump has accomplished that in Jerusalem. Nothing can be taken away from us.”

Last week, Bitan said that if the Palestinians refused to return to the negotiating table with Israel, “We would be compelled to make more cuts.” He also claimed that the United States would suffer even more than Israel would in the “great disintegration” that would be brought about by the Palestinian action.

It remains to be seen how big a crack the notion of dividing Jerusalem will create in the Trump administration’s declaration and from which corner Israeli lawmakers will jump in defense of Israeli sovereignty. But it is certain that the proposal may ultimately prove the spark for pushing the administration back on its travel plans and looking for new ideas on how to proceed in light of the outrage created by Trump’s announcement earlier this year.

Read the full story at Haaretz.


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