Why Israel Should Invest in Jerusalem Arabs’ Education and Welfare

Feb. 13 2018

Arab Jerusalemites have increasingly been applying for Israeli citizenship, and ever-growing numbers of youngsters are choosing to pursue the Israeli high-school curriculum (which qualifies them to apply to Israeli universities) and to enroll in after-school Hebrew classes. David M. Weinberg takes these trends, along with other data, to mean that the city’s Arab residents are coming to realize that “they will always be better off under Israeli administration” than under the Palestinian Authority:

Arab Jerusalemites—despite their Palestinian national identity—have come around to a pragmatic attitude toward Israeli authorities. . . . And there is a demonstrable linkage between Israeli investment in the welfare of eastern-Jerusalem Arabs and a reduction in terrorism. The neighborhoods that have most benefited from government and municipal budgets have become much quieter—with less crime and much less nationalistic violence. . . . [Thus] Israel can no longer ignore its responsibilities to develop the eastern half of the city.

However, the challenge remains enormous, particularly with regard to education. There are more than 105,000 children in eastern-Jerusalem schools. The system is short 1,500 classrooms. . . . The city is building seven to ten new schools each year, but it is not nearly enough, and there is an acute shortage of qualified school principals. . . .

Overcrowding, rampant illegal home construction, and (consequently) grossly overburdened water and sewage infrastructures are the norm in many eastern-Jerusalem neighborhoods, with the worst example being Silwan in the heart of the city. Last year the municipality approved a master plan for new home building in Sur Baher and Umm Tuba in the southern part of the city; but again, much more is needed.

The situation is complicated by the [political] struggles within the Arab community of Jerusalem. Many local Arab activists seek partnership with Israel in order to advance their communities, . . . and some are even considering running this fall for election to the Jerusalem municipal council on local Arab slates—for the first time. But Fatah leaders and the Palestinian Authority seek to dissuade them from working with the municipality and are threatening the families of moderate Jerusalemite Arabs with ostracism and even death.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: East Jerusalem, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Jerusalem

Jerusalem’s Economic Crisis, Its Arabs, and Its Future

Oct. 18 2018

The population of Israel’s capital city is 38-percent Arab, making Arab eastern Jerusalem the largest Arab community in the country. Connected to this fact is Jerusalem’s 46-percent poverty rate—the highest of any Israeli municipality. The city’s economic condition stems in part from its large ultra-Orthodox population, but there is also rampant poverty among its Arab residents, whose legal status is different from that of both Arab Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. Haviv Rettig Gur explains:

Jerusalem’s Arab inhabitants are not Israeli citizens—in part because Palestinian society views acceptance of Israeli citizenship, [available to any Arab Jerusalemite who desires it], as acceptance of Israeli claims of sovereignty over the city, and in part because Israel is not eager to accept them, even as it formally views itself as having annexed the area. Nevertheless, they have a form of permanent residency that, unlike West Bank Palestinians, allows them unimpeded access to the rest of Israel. . . .

There are good reasons for this poverty among eastern Jerusalem’s Arabs, rooted in the political trap that has ensnared the Arab half of the city and with it the rest of the city as well. Right-wing Israeli political leaders have avoided investing in Arab eastern Jerusalem, fearing that such investments would increase the flow of Palestinians into the city. Left-wing leaders have done the same on the grounds that the Arab half would be given away in a future peace deal.

Meanwhile, eastern Jerusalem’s complicated situation, suspended between the Israeli and Palestinian worlds, means residents cannot take full advantage of their access to the Israeli economy. For example, while most Arab women elsewhere in Israel learn usable Hebrew in school, most Arab schools in eastern Jerusalem teach from the Palestinian curriculum, which does not offer students the Hebrew they will need to find work in the western half of the city. . . .

It is not unreasonable to argue that Jerusalem cannot really be divided, not for political reasons but for economic ones. If Jerusalem remains a solely Israeli capital, it will have to integrate better its disparate parts and massively develop its weaker communities if it hopes ever to become solvent and prosperous. Arabs must be able to find more and better work in Jewish Jerusalem—and in Arab Jerusalem, too. Conversely, if the city is divided into two capitals, that of a Jewish state and that of a Palestinian one, that won’t change the underlying economic reality that its prosperity, its capacity to accommodate tourism and develop efficient infrastructure, and its ability to ensure access for all religions to their many holy sites, will still require a unified urban space.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Israeli economy, Jerusalem