‘You Cannot Divide The Heart’


Uri Lupolianski has been the elected mayor of Jerusalem since 2003 after having served for 14 years as a member of the Jerusalem City Council and holding the position of deputy mayor under then-Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert. Lupolianski, 56, was in New York to speak at last weekend’s annual convention of the Agudath Israel of America. Jewish Week: Prime Minister Olmert has suggested ceding as many as six Arab neighborhoods on the periphery of Jerusalem as part of a final peace agreement with the Palestinians. Vice Premier Haim Ramon said he favors handing over all Arab neighborhoods of the city, except those around the Old City. How much would you be willing to give up?

Uri Lupolianski: None of it. I talked with the prime minister; I’ve known him for years. He told me, “Don’t worry about that. In Annapolis we will have only a photo-op. … Nothing will happen. We’ll continue the process and nobody will make any decisions about these things; it’s only to talk.”

But I am afraid about the influence of the world. I believe that nobody can make the decision [for Israel], but when they talk there is the influence of Arabic people who are residents of Jerusalem and [of the] European countries and even the State Department of the United States. Jerusalem is not only the capital of the State of Israel; it is the spiritual capital of the Jewish nation. It is the heart of all the Jewish people and you cannot divide the heart; you cannot take pieces from the heart.

I would like to convince him [Olmert] that these words are dangerous and have an influence, especially with the Arab people who stay in Jerusalem. They are afraid what will happen. I sit with their leaders twice a month and we talk to each other. They want to stay with the Jewish people in Jerusalem under the authority of the Israeli state and not anyone else. And they want to make business together [with Israelis] and to have a quality of life.

What is your reaction to Olmert’s comments?

He said, “I, like other prime ministers, swear that Jerusalem will be united.” But he said, “Who said what is really Jerusalem? The Shuafat refugee camp and Abu Dis are far away, who said they are [part of] Jerusalem?” That is what he said. It’s bad to say that. Even if it is only words, he knows that [Palestinian President] Mahmoud Abbas has no power.Do you agree with his assessment about Abu Dis?

It’s theoretical. [At this time] we have no [Palestinian] partner.

What was your message to the Agudath Israel convention?

I came to beg our brothers to express their voices that we cannot think about a divided Jerusalem. Jerusalem is united and it will be united. … You cannot build a wall in the middle of Jaffa Road. You can’t do that. And you cannot give to Palestinians an opportunity to have control because half of their people are from Hamas. If they took control, immediately it would be the beginning of another intifada.