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Jerusalem: crossroads between peace and conflict

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Jerusalem: crossroads between peace and conflict


Since the beginning of the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, Jerusalem has been the main stumbling block.

And central to the problem has been Israel’s policy of building Jewish settlements on what the Palestinians believe is their territory.

Israel claims Jerusalem as its indivisible and eternal capital. But the Palestinians want the eastern part as the capital of their future state.

Around 250,000 Palestinians and about 200,000 Israelis live in east Jerusalem.

And the Israeli authorities say they will not stop there.

In 1967 west Jerusalem was Israeli and Jordan administered the east. But during the war of that year, Israeli forces rolled in, taking the whole city and all of the West Bank.

Jerusalem was annexed, and Jewish settlements began to spring up in Palestinian areas.

And with the building of a wall encompassing the areas on the Israeli side, Tel Aviv effectively annexed those too.

But if east Jerusalem as a whole is equally vital to each side, it is the old town which is home to sites sacred three times over – to Jews, Muslims and Christians.

The Wailing Wall, the last vestige of Solomon’s Temple, is the most holy site in Judaism. The Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque occupy the third most revered place in Islam. And many Christians believe the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is where Jesus was buried.

These religious sites have proved to be a flash-point for violence between the two communities.
In 2000, a visit by the right-winger Ariel Sharon to the esplanade of the Mosques sparked fierce clashes. The Palestinians saw it as a provocative gesture.

Since the construction of the wall between Israel and the West Bank, Palestinians have found it increasingly difficult to pass in and out of the old town, and building permits have become equally hard to get. And the expulsion of Palestinian families became more common after a ruling by an Israeli court.

Ever since 1967 Jerusalem has typified the differences that have blocked the road to peace for decades.

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