However, while this article of faith was understandable in 1967, is not only unfathomable today, but manifests a state of dangerous clinical denial, one in which Israel is oblivious to the realities of Jerusalem and its own vital national interests.
In 1967, Israel annexed the land of East Jerusalem, not its population. Unaware at the time, we created an inherently dysfunctional reality. Jerusalem is populated by two national collectives, only one of which is politically empowered - 63% of whom are citizens, 37% of whom are not. Fifty years on, “united” Jerusalem is more bi-national, more contested, more divided and less sustainable than at any point since 1967. A house divided against itself cannot stand –one that is half occupied and half free. In 1967, the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem was the legitimate outcome of a just war. But with the perpetuation of occupation, it is morphing into a toxic one-state reality.
Tamir Pardo, former head of the Mossad, recently stated that Israel today confronts only one existential challenge: occupation. Nothing threatens the long -term viability of the Zionist enterprise than perpetual occupation. Occupation ends in one way alone: a border, one which will be in Jerusalem, and not merely in its environs. PM Netanyahu and his government have been willfully and systematically creating a reality that makes the creation of that border impossible. Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak has solemnly warned that these policies “inevitably … bring us to a single state, which will be an apartheid state”.
Israel is at a crossroads. We can soberly move towards a two state outcome – end of occupation in exchange for security, legitimacy and a recognized border – a result that will bring Zionism its crowning achievement: a universally recognized capital in Yerushalayim, alongside of the Palestinian capital Al Quds. Alternatively, we can condemn ourselves to a permanent metastasizing occupation. What is at stake is not merely if Israel will be “decent”, but if we will be yet another episode of Jewish independence, or the seminal change in the course of Jewish history we deserve and aspire to be.
Official Israel’s response is not only to turn a blind eye to these unpleasant truths, but to attack any who acknowledge the existence of occupation and the threats that it poses. Netanyahu seeks to address occupation by silencing, vilifying and pursuing any who expose it and seek to end it, orchestrating an assault on the very foundations of Israeli society: the courts, the press, civil society, and at times, even the IDF itself.
History will not judge them kindly, nor will it be kind to those who love Israel, however well-motivated, yet hold their silence in the face of Israel’s self-destructive course.
Israel did not seek to take East Jerusalem in 1967, neither did we prepare for its consequences. It was a war of self-defense, par excellence. However, even before the guns fell silent, its history was being rewritten. Understandably, Israel was blinded by the exhilaration generated by the rapid ascent from fear of annihilation to the peaks of Biblical salvation. Given the unique, overpowering circumstances of the moment, Israel ignored the ramifications of its unexpected victory, giving rise to an article of faith that even then defied reality: Jerusalem, “the-undivided-capital-of-Israel-that-will-never-be-redivided”.
Daniel (Danny) Seidemann has lived in Jerusalem since he made Aliyah in 1973. He has been a member of the Israeli Bar Association since 1987, and a partner in a firm specializing in commercial law. Since 1991, he has specialized the geopolitics of contemporary Jerusalem, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the city.