Jerusalem's Indivisible People

Jerusalem is a city that simply cannot be divided, due to the diverse nature of its population, says Mayor Nir Barkat.

Chana Ya'ar , | updated: 15:04

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat at
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat at
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat told international media Wednesday that his city's diverse population cannot be divided – nor can the city itself.

Even though the Palestinian Authority continues to insist that Israel give up half of Jerusalem so it can create a capital for a new PA Arab country, Barkat said the demand is simply unrealistic. "You cannot divide [this] city,” he told an Associated Press reporter and several others who met in his office at city hall. “I know it will never work.”

There are more than 800,000 residents in the city, including at least half a million Jews and nearly 300,000 Arabs, most of whom work together with Jews.

“Where will they work?” Barkat asked. “Show me one example of a city [divided] that continued to work. There's not one comparable idea in history that ever worked. I've been an investor – there's a concept called 'dead on arrival,' a deal that you know will never work.” A divided Jerusalem, Barkat said, is such a plan. 

The mayor's main objections, however, were based on the practical aspects of the issue, rather than the question of its political correctness. 

He also pointed out that the city is much more integrated than media tend to describe. To be truly accurate in labeling a neighborhood Jewish – such as Pisgat Ze'ev – one first has to realize that in many cases, Arabs have been moving into the area as well, he said.

Moreover, Mayor Barkat added, if one speaks of freezing construction in areas restored to the city after the 1967 Six Day War, it would mean a stop to construction in all such neighborhoods – including work on Arab buildings as well. In a city where Orthodox Jews and Arabs are prominent, and where tourism reigns as a major source of income, such a move is not wise, Barkat said.

The mayor expects to be able to quadruple tourism to Jerusalem within the next decade, a feat that could raise the city's income by $10 million a year.