Jerusalem Mayor: City 'Will Never Function as, God Forbid, a Divided City'
The mayor of Jerusalem told CNN that "God forbid" the city be carved up in a peace plan to give the Palestinians East Jerusalem as the capital of a state.
"Let me take you back 3,000 years. Jerusalem is the capital of the world, the temple of the middle, and it was never divided to the tribes. But everyone was welcome to come to the city of Jerusalem. The DNA of Jerusalem is a united city respecting all people, residents, visitors, and Jerusalem has a role to play," Mayor Nir Barkat said.
"And that DNA of the past, that's how Jerusalem functioned for a thousand years, is our future. By definition it cannot be divided. Our role is to open up and to enable people that come peacefully to the city of Jerusalem to have freedom of religion that did not existed for 2,000 years. Today you go to walk the streets of Jerusalem, you'll find that the churches are managed by the Christians, the mosques are managed by the Muslims, and the Jews manage the Jewish sites. It was not like that."
The Palestinians have said that any deal which doesn't give them East Jerusalem is a non-starter, and the plan being pushed by Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly includes half of the city in return for the Palestinians recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.
"There are solutions to that, but there is not a solution of, God forbid, dividing the city of Jerusalem. It will never function. It's against the DNA of the city. And by the way, there is not one example of a city in the world that ever got split and became functional," Barkat said.
"...You can call Ramallah, the center of the Palestinian people, they can bring their embassy to Jerusalem. They today have freedom of movement, freedom of religion. Today Jerusalem is an open international city, and by the way it's doing extremely well. Jerusalem, if you look at the trends in the city of Jerusalem, our economy has been growing 8 percent from year to year."
Barkat stressed that "satisfaction of all residents -- Muslims, Christians, Orthodox, secular, is otherwise, our crime rates are .1 an average of any American city. When I fly to the States I pray because I know I'm 10 times more exposed to crimes in the United States than I am back home in Jerusalem. And all of that, the economy going north, crime rates going south, all of that, we must be doing something right."
And giving half of that to Palestinians, he added, is "a very clear no."
"I'm committed to serve all my residents, the Muslim, the Christian, the Jewish residents. For me they're all the same. That's what the Jewish tradition, that's what the Jewish Bible says. You've got to treat everyone equally, and that's exactly what we're doing. And there are gaps to close on the Arab neighborhoods, and the Jewish neighborhoods, and I'm committed to closing those gaps," Barkat said.
"I think it's a demand that has to be off the table, because whoever raises such a demand doesn't understand the importance of the city of Jerusalem as a united city. And unfortunately, sometimes I feel that Israel does not have a partner to negotiate with because the charter of, unfortunately, many of the Palestinians and our neighbors is to destroy Israel. And when somebody wants to destroy Israel, sometimes we feel that this is a salami-style negotiations," he continued. "Let's take a piece now and then we'll argue about the rest. It's -- the whole concept of negotiating with the Palestinians has to take another route. They have to understand that Jerusalem will never function as, God forbid, a divided city."