Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Turf War in Jerusalem with Real Significance

On March 5, 1972, Shmuel Toledano, the Advisor on Arab Affairs to the Prime Minister, sent a letter to his boss, Golda Meir:
Two years ago, the government decided that the Arabs of East Jerusalem are to be regarded similarly as the Arab minority in Israel, and that therefore my office should be in charge of their affairs. [Meaning they are different from the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza, who were not treated as Israeli citizens.] At the time, the Minister of Police (Shlomo Hillel) agreed. Since then, the minister has been criticizing my office as if we're treading on his turf. No one is arguing against police involvement in police matters, though fortunately there are ever fewer security issues in east Jerusalem, as the populace is integrating into the west part of town. We should be encouraging this integration while working to detach the Arabs of Jerusalem from the Arabs of the West Bank - as my office is striving to do. It would be a mistake to have the minister of police involved in matters touching upon negotiations about the future of the West Bank and Jerusalem:
a. This is the opposite of detaching the two groups.
b. Most of the affairs of the Arabs of East Jerusalem are now civic and economic, not police issues. As the municipal elections approach, and there are 40,000 eligible voters in East Jerusalem, my office has the expertise to work with them correctly.
c. In the earliest years of the state there was a minister of "Police and Minorities". This caused resentment among the Arabs of Israel and it was discontinued. We should be careful not to regress.
It is a fact, as the minister notes, that some of the leaders of the Arabs of the West bank live in Jerusalem. Yet we should be working to seperate the two communities, not unite them.
The file I found this letter in (גל-13908/2) doesn't record what Golda's decision was. Whether Toledano won this particular argument or not, the fundamental issue was decided - from the Israeli perspective at least - in his favor. What history has to say about this remains to be seen.

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