Washington, May 8 - The costs of dividing the city of Jerusalem along political lines are too great, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said Tuesday.
“I know not one good example in the world of a city that was split and ever worked,” Barkat told participants on a conference call sponsored by The Israel Project. “There’s no other way than to keep Jerusalem a united city.”
Barkat, who is on a two-week visit to the United States, presides over a city holy to the three major monotheistic religions and at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Jerusalem's population of about 800,000 individuals is roughly 35 percent Arabs - mostly Muslims; 25 percent ultra-orthodox Jews; and 40 percent mixed between Christians, secular Jews, orthodox Jews and others. (Read about Jerusalem in the TIP Kit here)
Most nations have refused in principle to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city before a settlement to the conflict is reached and the status of the Arab residents - who often have permanent residency but not citizenship - is resolved.
Barkat noted some positive trends in Jerusalem’s recent history, including a robust economy growing at 8 percent a year, lower crime and a “calmer” political atmosphere. But he cautioned that Jews or Arabs looking to instigate violence or unrest would be kept out.
“There’s room for everybody in Jerusalem. Everyone can be in the city peacefully,” Barkat said. “If you come peacefully, you will be welcome.”
The mayor also said that it was “imperative” for Jerusalem to remain a tolerant environment for all citizens even in the face of recent tensions, a task made even more important by the ancient city’s international significance.
“I know that success in Jerusalem is not just success for the city but also for the country and region,” he said.