NEW YORK (Aug. 18)
The commander who led the Israeli forces that liberated the Old City of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War, says that the idea calling for the “transfer” of the Arab population of East Jerusalem and the West Bank is “absurd, impractical and immoral.”
Brig. Gen. (Res.) Uzi Narkiss, who was the chief of the Central Command during the 1967 war, said that Israel is facing a situation that cannot be altered. “Look,” he said in an interview here, “any Arab who wants to leave is free to do so. But to force any Arab on the West Bank to leave against his or her will is simply absurd.”
Two weeks ago an Israeli politician, Deputy Defense Minister Michael Dekel of Likud called for the “transfer” of the Arab population in the West Bank to other countries. His suggestion raised a storm of protests in Israel and was widely reported around the world.
“I believe that Mr. Dekel talks of transfer because he wants to be in the news and be elected again to the Knesset,” Narkiss said, stressing once more that the idea of transfer is “groundless and impossible.”
Narkiss arrived in New York as part of a delegation of 12 commanders and officers of the Israel Defense Force units that liberated Jerusalem more than 20 years ago. Members of the delegation will visit Jewish communities in the United States and Canada in the next three weeks to participate in the Israel Bond campaign’s “Operation Jerusalem.”
FEARS ANTI-ZIONIST MAJORITY IN JERUSALEM
The Jerusalem-born Narkiss, who is now the head of the World Zionist Organization’s information department, expressed concern, however, that Jerusalem might face a situation in the future in which the anti-Zionist elements in the city will be the majority.
“Since the majority of Israelis, I would say about 90 percent of the population, do not want a territorial compromise on Jerusalem, we do have to face the problem of the growing anti-Zionist elements in the city that include the Arab population and the ultra-Orthodox who do not believe in the Jewish State.”
Noting that although the present majority of the city’s population is Jewish and Zionist, with 30 percent Arabs and 10 percent “Haredim” (anti-Zionist religious Jews) Narkiss said that, nevertheless, if measures are not taken now Zionist Jews might lose their majority in the city.
“Israel must encourage young Israelis to come and live in Jerusalem by offering them affordable housing and employment,” Narkiss suggested. He said that would Jewry can help, too: “Jews around the world must come on aliya in growing numbers and settle in Jerusalem.”
‘FELT WE WERE CREATING HISTORY’
Recalling the awesome days of the liberation of Jerusalem, Narkiss said that when he and his troops entered the gates of the Old City on the third day of the war, “we felt and we knew that we were creating history. We felt that this is an historic occasion, the fulfillment of 2,000 years of dreams and longing. After two days of intense fighting, during which we lost 183 soldiers, we suddenly faced a real Jerusalem, a city of stone that could be touched and felt. It was a unique experience, a one-time event in a nation’s life. I feel very proud that I was part of it all,” Narkiss said.
Members of the delegation, which include Gen. (Res.) Mordechai Gur. then commander of the paratroop brigade, and Brig. Gen. (Res.) Uri Ben Ari, then commander of the Harel Brigade, will visit more than 100 Jewish communities in the U.S. and Canada. “Operation Jerusalem” commemorates the 20th anniversary of the reunification of the city.
“Through the symbol of reunited Jerusalem. American Jews can now even strengthen their ties to the Jewish State,” Narkiss observed. “By investing in Israel’s economy, through the purchase of Israel Bonds, American Jews will make both communities closer and stronger.”