Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Jerusalem, late 1967: the Banality of Unification

Israeli policies regarding Jerusalem after the Six Day War have been a theme of this blog, but we've been neglecting it recently. So let's get back to it (previous installments are tagged with the "Jerusalem" label).

File ג-6304/4 contains various letters which went across the desk of someone in the Prime Minister's Secretariat between August and December of 1967. In September, Yehuda Tamir, who had previously worked for the Ashdar construction company, was appointed to oversee settling of Jews in East Jerusalem from the PM's Office; thereafter, the file probably was in his office.

The file is interesting precisely because it reflects a variety of Jerusalem-related matters which preoccupied officials in the most powerful office in the land.

Some of it is standard politics. Mordechai Bentov, Minister of Construction, wrote to PM Levi Eshkol on August 30 to remonstrate against the appointment of Yehuda Tamir: "You can't have meant him to deal with construction, can you? Of course, so long as he doesn't deal with that we'll be happy to work with him" [p.17]. Moshe Kol, Minister of Tourism, sent a note to the Minister of Justice Yaacov Shimshon Shapira with a copy to Eshkol: "I'll be on vacation next Sunday, but please remember to add my name to the list of ministers in the committee you're setting up for Jerusalem affairs. Tourism will be very important in Jerusalem" [p.16]. Hanoch Lev-Kochav, the General Manager of the Ministry of Labor wrote a remonstration to the head of Eshkol's Secretariat: "What were you possibly thinking when you sent that letter (enclosed) to the Minister of Police telling him to deal on his own with transferring his headquarters to Jerusalem, since the Public Works Organization (Ma'atz) is too busy? All you needed to do was ask us, and we'd have told you Ma'atz isn't too busy!" [p.12-13].

On the edge of turf-fighting politics and budgetary politics, there's the December letter from Yigal Allon, Minister of Labor, to the Minister of Police: "Yes, the police is moving its headquarters to Jerusalem, and yes, this will entail making considerable severence payments to spouses of officials who will be moved, but this is an expensive issue. I don't see how the Minister of Labor can be expected to resolve it on his own. You should raise it at the next inter-ministerial meeting" [p.2].

There were the ususal budgetary hurdles. In December, Tamir thought he had secured a budget of some three and a half million pounds to be administered by the PMO for planning and construction in the Old City. Not so fast, the Finance Ministry folks said; you've still got to show us this form and that authorization [p. 5-7].

There were interactions with the public: Eshkol signed a letter to "Dear Fisher, Developing east Jerusalem is a major project, it needs to be done with forethought and planning, and it will take a bit of time before everybody sees the results" [p.8]. An aide wrote to the Shoham family thanking them for their suggestion and assuring them Yehuda Tamir was on it [p.15].

An official of a youth movement wrote Tamir, with copies to lots of important folks, to request a building in the Old City where they could set up an education center. Tamir, in the eternal tradition of officials, asked for more details [p.10-11].

And finally, the file contains a hand-written note from an aide to Eshkol himself, on September 8th:
Prime Minister,
40 families of immigrants and between 30-50 other families have settled in Jerusalem since June 6th, according to the Ministry of Construction and Yehuda Tamir's data. Ziegel is on vacation, but his office assures me they'll send over their numbers within the hour.
[in a second handwriting, apparently the number's from Ziegel's office]
The numbers of new immigrants are:
June: 5 families, 3 individuals, a total of 17.
July: 8 families, 2 individuals, total of 29.
August: 22 families, 2 individuals, total or 100.
Total: 146. [p.18]

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