JERUSALEM (Jul. 7)
Jews now outnumber Palestinians in the section of Jerusalem that was under Jordanian rule prior to 1967, Deputy Mayor Avraham Kahilla reported this week to members of the city planning committee.
The finding, which came as a surprise to many, including residents of this city, was based on recent surveys by the government and a private group, Kahilla said.
The number of Jews now living in those areas of the city that were Jordanian before being captured by Israel in 1967 exceeds 160,000. The number of Palestinians living in those same areas is about 155,000.
Kahilla said Jews became a majority in eastern Jerusalem sometime during the last year and a half, mainly due to the development of the northern Jewish suburb of Pisgat Ze’ev, situated between the Jewish suburbs of Neveh Ya’acov and French Hill.
Kahilla predicted that the Jewish population growth would continue at this accelerated rate. He said 6,000 additional housing units in Pisgat Ze’ev are approaching completion.
Kahilla, a lifelong member of the Labor Party, said the demography is a fact of political life that should be taken into consideration by everyone dealing with aspects of Jerusalem’s political future.
A former Jerusalem deputy mayor and noted academic expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Meron Benvenisti, said in an interview that the Jewish suburbs of eastern Jerusalem are indistinguishable, in Palestinian eyes, from Jewish settlement in the administered territories.
“There is no difference to them between Ofra (a West Bank settlement) and Gilo (a southern Jerusalem suburb),” Benvenisti said in the newspaper Ha’aretz.
Kahilla’s report comes against the backdrop of a hardening deadlock in the Washington peace talks, chiefly over the issue of Jerusalem’s status.
The Palestinians are demanding that eastern Jerusalem fall under the jurisdiction of the autonomy plan, or at least that “settlement” activities there cease so as not to prejudice the final political disposition of the city, to be determined in negotiations slated to begin three years after autonomy goes into effect.
Benvenisti said the publication of these new population statistics would sharpen the issues, since the Americans and others have steadily come to accept that demographic realities are creating facts on the ground in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
He pointed out that the area that the present government calls “Greater Jerusalem” adds 40,000 Jews to the city’s demographic equation by incorporating “satellite” towns and villages, such as Ma’aleh Adumim, that the government regards as destined to remain under Israeli rule.
But these outlying areas also include a much larger number of Arabs, he observed. Under the government’s definition, he said, Greater Jerusalem’s population today is 52 percent Jewish and 48 percent Arab.