US Congressman Protests Possible Division of Jerusalem
By Julie Stahl
CNSNews.com Jerusalem Bureau Chief
November 26, 2007
Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Christians and Jews from around the world could find themselves praying in the crosshairs of terrorist snipers if the eastern sections of Jerusalem are given over to Palestinian control, a visiting U.S. congressman said here.
"The security of Jerusalem is more fragile than anything," Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia told a crowd of Israelis who gathered for a rally on Sunday evening. The rally was sponsored by One Jerusalem, a new group that is opposed to dividing the city.
Cantor came to Israel over the weekend ahead of the U.S.-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian summit to add his voice to those who oppose the division of Jerusalem.
"On the eastern edges of this city and beyond, the anti-Jewish propaganda machine still rages, suicide bombers are still hailed as national heroes, and armed struggle against Jews is still glorified. Against this backdrop, territorial concessions could lead to pockets of Jerusalem slipping into the bloody hands of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al-Aksa," Cantor said.
Palestinians want the eastern part of the city, including the ancient Old City and Temple Mount, currently under Israeli sovereignty, to come under their control in a final agreement.
The international conference that opens in Annapolis, Maryland, on Tuesday is supposed to jump-start stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which will address the most difficult permanent status issues, including Jerusalem.
Until recently, Israeli leaders referred to Jerusalem as the undivided, eternal capital of Israel. But in the run-up to the Annapolis summit, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert indicated that he would be willing to turn over Arab neighborhoods in the city to the Palestinians in a final peace deal. (See earlier story)
Opponents of such a move say the West Bank and Jerusalem will fall into the hands of Hamas and other radical groups if the Israeli army pulls out of the area because Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is not strong enough to hold onto it.
Earlier this fall, Cantor sponsored a resolution condemning Muslim digging operations on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Some archeologists say the Palestinians are destroying ancient artifacts. According to Cantor, his colleagues in Congress asked why Jerusalem was so important.
"I remind them that Jerusalem is not merely the capital of Israel, but the spiritual capital of Jews and Christians everywhere," he said.
"Jerusalem is Israel's life blood. No one understands this better than Israel's enemies. That is precisely why they still engage in a systematic campaign to erase the historical link of the Jews to this great city, for if Israel were severed from Jerusalem, the Jewish state would lose its sense of legitimacy and its will to fight, and only then would Israel be destroyed.
"What befalls Jerusalem, threatens the security of the United States and its allies worldwide. That's because Jerusalem and Israel are ground zero in the global battle between tyranny and democracy, radicalism and moderation, terrorism and freedom," Cantor said.
The One Jerusalem rally, which was not publicized in advance, took place at a banquet hall that commands a stunning view of the Old and New City of Jerusalem as well as most of its Jewish and Arab neighborhoods.
During the rally, organizers played a video of Olmert when he was mayor of Jerusalem. Speaking to some 400,000 Israelis seven years ago, Olmert pledged that the city would never be divided after then-President Bill Clinton first put forward the idea of dividing the city by Jewish and Arab neighborhoods.
Former Israeli army chief of staff, reserve Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon, who also addressed the rally, said that dividing the city would put "the neighborhoods of Jerusalem, government ministries and schools into the range of Kassams [rockets]." (See earlier story)
Jerusalem's Jewish and Arab neighborhoods are closely intertwined, making sniper fire and rocket attacks a troubling possibility if Jerusalem is politically divided.