A series of recent Israeli actions in the mainly Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem have raised tensions there, with Palestinian and Israeli critics contending that they are part of a wider plan to “Judaize” historically charged areas around the Old City.
The actions, ostensibly unconnected, include the demolition of two Arab homes in Silwan, a neighborhood adjacent to the Old City above the ruins of an ancient Jewish site; the start of a controversial infrastructure project there; and the eviction of a Palestinian family from its home in Sheik Jarrah, another neighborhood coveted by Jewish nationalists near the Old City.
None of these actions in themselves are that unusual here. But the spate of high-profile, highly symbolic moves in the past few weeks has reignited concerns that an increasing Jewish presence in Arab areas will further complicate the chances of reaching an Israeli-Palestinian political agreement based on a two-state solution, which calls for a division of powers in a shared capital.
And they come as a new Jerusalem mayor who has vocally supported expansion of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem takes office.
“East Jerusalem must be the capital of the Palestinian state,” said Hatem Abdel Qader, an adviser on Jerusalem affairs to the Palestinian Authority prime minister, Salam Fayyad. “Israel is trying to create facts on the ground and determine the results before we reach any solution.”Some believe that the Israeli authorities and Jewish nationalists, who are increasingly gaining footholds in the Arab neighborhoods, are intentionally exploiting the period of political transition in the United States, as well as the political vacuum in Israel before the February elections.