Over the decades, there have been endless media reports and speculation by politicians and pundits abut what Israel has been trying to do in East Jerusalem and how it regards the local Arab residents. Most of it hasn't been based on solid evidence, as much of the evidence is only being declassified in recent years. (Today's document, for example, has not been public until last month and has never been cited since it has been on my desk most of that time). Obviously, no single file can persuasively end any of those arguments. Still, it is interesting to follow the matter of fact deliberations, and in this context, perhaps the most interesting finding is the lack of anything interesting to find. A series of issues was brought to the table, each one was discussed in a dispassionate matter, and then the committee went on to the next item. Beyond the over-arching but unstated determination to unify the city, there seems not to be any political ideology at all.
The first chunk of the meeting focused on matters of tourism.
De Schalit (Ministry of Tourism) wanted to know when the IDF would remove the last of its units bivouacked in East Jerusalem hotels.
Col. Vered: Hopefully within six months. We need to find alternatives first.
De Schalit: The IDF moved staff and equipment from the St. George Hotel to the Ritz. Nu?
Col. Vered: We'll fix it.
De Schalit: Our ministry is willing to give East Jerusalem hotel owners loans to repair damages, but the Jordanian property registration isn't acceptable.
Kokia (Justice): We're arranging to have the Jordanian registry recognized.
Decision: Treasury and tourism will resolve the matters of loan guarantees.
De Schalit: East Jerusalem hotel owners whose premises were damaged during the fighting are demanding compensation.
Kokia: We don't owe damage payments for actions initiated by the Jordanians. Still, Mr Gafni of Treasury tells me it's possible such payments may be made.
Shari: Why? The Jordanians initiated the hostilities in Jerusalem.
Decision: Kokia will discuss the matter with Treasury.
De Schalit: There's a night-time curfew in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Bad for tourism.
Col. Vered: we're looking into it. In the meantime the curfew remains.
De Schalit: The Army commandeered 12 buses of the [Jordanian] JETT company.
Vered: They're about to be returned.
De Schalit: East Jerusalem cabdrivers aren't authorized to to enter West Jerusalem or the West Bank. Bad for tourism.
Silverstone: This will soon be discussed in a different committee.
De Schalit: The JETT bus company ordered 8 new Mercedes buses before the war, via Jordan of course. What now?
Decision: Kokia will work with the Ministry of Transportation to expedite the import of the buses [via Israel].
DeSchalit: East Jerusalem tour guides and travel agents can operate in Israel but not the West Bank [presumably because Israel had already annexed East Jerusalem, thus severing it for this purpose from its previous hinterland, the West Bank].
Col. Vered: If the bus driver has a travel license that should be enough. No-one's checking the tour guides.
Decision: This needs to be fixed - responsibility of Transportation.
Kokia: We're hearing that some of the East Jerusalem civil servants are refusing to sign forms with Israeli letterheads on their way into Israeli employment. Unacceptable.
Shari: Actually, all it is is a standard personnel form.
Decision: Whoever doesn't sign won't be employed. Moreover, people whose place of employment is now redundant will also not be employed.
Silverstone: There's the matter of the planning committees for East Jerusalem. We (Interior) think there should be a joint government-municipality planning committee.
Benvenisti (Municipality): And we think we can do it on our own, thank you very much.
Kokia: This needs to be resolved between the municipality and Interior; it's not the authority of this committee.
Rotem (Interior): We're working on the issue of debt to and from the East Jerusalem Municipality. Once we've listed all the data we'll bring a proposal.
Agmon (Treasury): We better be in on that.
Decision: Add a representative from Treasury and report back to us when possible.
Haramati (Municipality): The lack of clarity regarding the Jordanian land registry is preventing anyone from taking mortgage loans.
Kokia: We've talked about that already, in the matter of the hotels.
Decision: Investigate the creation of an option for the Public Guardian (Apotropos Haklali) to work a way around this in specific cases.