President Shimon Peres has this observation to offer today during a visit to the Bedouin township of Houra:
“People are living and working peacefully, and there are also mishaps, but if they try to put it into writing, a world war will break. Practically speaking, there is already peace in Jerusalem, anyone who will try to turn it into an agreement will ruin everything. All faiths and all the prayers rise up together, and the government doesn’t intervene.”
I suppose the takeovers of Palestinian property in Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah, proto-fascist parades with chants of “death to Arabs” and the agressive building of settlements are all mishaps, while the relentless ban on males under 40 to prayer at Temple Mount, and the barring of Gaza Muslims and Christians to worship at the city’s holy sites, don’t really come up to a “government intervention” into the matters of the three faiths.
Peres is a keen political weathervane and a remarkable survivor (in the weakest, most dependent sense of the word); he’s never been able to actually shift the course of events (weathervanes don’t direct the wind), but he has built his career in the past decade by clutching onto the mainstream for dear life and going wherever dominant political currents took him. Whether this was a slip of the tongue or a deliberate signal of loyalty to Netanyahu, it’s clear Peres thinks partition is so unlikely that defending it even with lip service would be stupid.
He’s probably correct; it’s extremely difficult right now to imagine a scenario in which the city is actually divided between two sovereign states. But the real issue about Jerusalem isn’t partition in the future, but the segregation taking place today. As that segregation’s architect Teddy Kollek had the decency to admit, Israel has deliberately and persistently neglected East Jerusalem, only installing sewer there because it feared a cholera outbreak might occur and carry over to the Jewish side of the city. People get by from day to day, true enough, but this doesn’t mean tension isn’t building up. Even if actual partition is completely unlikely, the city is not united and it’s certainly isn’t at peace.