Of course, nobody in Israel would like to give up half of the most holy city for Jews. And for Palestinians, the idea of a two-state solution itself is a kind of compromise. But a two-state solution is the kind of compromise that the two sides will have to swallow to allow them to stop killing each other and live. The alternative is either to occupy a large segment of the Palestinian people or to be part of a one-state solution, which would mean the end of the Jewish state.
What you’re asking in negotiations is not, “Is it a good solution?” It’s, “What other solutions do you have?” Religious fundamentalism on both sides could endanger any kind of process. The question is not really what those people are interested in but in what the majority of people are interested in—and what’s in the interest of the majority.
For a two-state solution to work, Jerusalem has to be split. I don’t think Israel will be able to find any Palestinian partner who would agree not to include that. The eastern part of the city will be part of a Palestinian state. The dividing should be done in a way that holy places for the Jewish religion will stay in the Israeli state. It’s not like we’re going to give the Wailing Wall to a Palestinian country or build a new Disneyland on the Temple Mount.
is the author of seven English-language novels of which the latest is The Saturday Wife. Her play, Women’s Minyan, recently completed a five-year run at Israel’s National Theater. Ragen was raised in New York and emigrated to Israel in 1971; she has lived in Jerusalem ever since.
Jerusalem was not chosen by the Jews; Jerusalem was chosen by God. The Bible says again and again that the only place you can build My Temple is in Jerusalem. So we don’t have a choice. This is His chosen spot for us and there’s nothing we can do about that.
I find it very difficult to believe that any Jew would tell you that Jerusalem is not the heart of our country. Even Jews who are not observant will tell you that their hearts beat a little faster when they come to Jerusalem. You have to be very, very far removed from everything Jewish not to feel that way.
Whoever says that the division of Jerusalem is a progressive thing either is deluded or a liar. You’ve got to be crazy, suicidal or immoral: That’s what I say about anyone who would divide Jerusalem. It’s very nice for people to “want peace,” especially the ones who live in America. They want me to risk my life and the lives of my children so they can feel good about themselves. The pressure also comes from within—you have a government that does not represent the majority of the people. A lot of these people—Peres, Olmert—their own children don’t live in Israel any more. They all have their passports ready to go. I have four children and three of them live in Israel.
There is no reason for anybody to ask Israel to turn over Jerusalem. Every religion has access. No one stops the Muslims from going to the Holy Mount. No one stops the Christians from going to their holy places or the Jews from going to theirs. To say you’re going to improve things by taking an open city and giving it over to a religion that has no respect for other religions is capitulation to the worst possible forces.
Everyone knows what the city was like when the Muslims were in charge. You can still see the Jewish gravestones that were used to pave their roads. They desecrated the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. They insist on dividing the city simply because they cannot live in peace with it as an open city.
You would be giving territory to people who are going to use it as another area from which they can attack Israel. I was at a rally where a laser show showed how close rocket launchers in East Jerusalem will be to the Knesset, how easy it will be to bomb the Kotel. To hand over municipal authority and make it official that Israel has no right to check on terrorists coming into East Jerusalem, that’s like cutting your veins.
If you hand over East Jerusalem, who is going to benefit? The most radical forces in the Palestinian community. The Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem and have Israeli identity cards are begging, begging the authorities not to hand them over to the Palestinian Authority. In every other place under Palestinian control, there’s been rampant corruption and strong-arm thugs coming in to take over legitimate businesses. You can’t just hand people a state where no one’s interested in running it, where no one’s prepared to pick up the trash and take care of the sewage.