Jerusalem Day, commemorated yesterday, is the perfect opportunity for polling the public on its attitudes towards Israel's capital – and the results are mixed.
As Arutz Sheva has reported over the past few days, one poll shows that 92% of Israeli Jews agree that Jerusalem is the Jewish Nation's eternal capital, and the Central Statistics Bureau says that 88% of adult Jerusalem residents reported that they are pleased with their lives, compared with 85% nationwide.
But another survey shows more worrisome results. 28% of the Israeli public does not know why Jerusalem Day is celebrated at all, and 25% of the religious-Zionist public would be willing to cede parts of Jerusalem in exchange for a peace treaty.
Commissioned by the Binyan Kesher Leyerushalayim organization and its Im Eshkachech-Keep Jerusalem initiative, the poll was conducted this past week by the Teleclal Institute among 573 respondents.
Asked what Jerusalem Day commemorates, some answered, "the day of the destruction of Jerusalem" or a "day of prayer and fasting." Even 15% of those who identified as Religious-Zionist did not know that it marks the day Jerusalem was liberated and reunified during the Six Day War 48 years ago.
Additional data revealed in the survey was that in exchange for a peace treaty with the Palestinian Authority, 50% of the Israeli public would agree to divide the Holy City, giving the Arab neighborhoods to the PA. Nearly a quarter would even hand over the Muslim and Christian quarters of the ancient Old City to the PA. Among religious-Zionists, only 4% would cede the Old City, compared with 68% of those describing themselves as secular.
Chaim Silberstein, founder and president of Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech, is disappointed with the survey results: "The findings are disturbing and should set off alarms within the nationalist camp. If the government enters into an aggressive political process, we may be surprised when even the right-wing parties vote in favor of handing over parts of Jerusalem."
Silberstein has long warned of the dangers of dividing the city: "Withdrawing Israeli sovereignty from the Arab neighborhoods would create an Arab-controlled corridor all the way from Ramallah to Bethlehem, going through the center of Jerusalem. This would create a Gaza-like situation, drawing all the terrorist organizations to the area with the goal of ‘liberating’ the rest of Jerusalem.”
Silberstein, whose KeepJerusalem conducts informational tours in and around Jerusalem for groups and public opinion shapers from Israel and abroad throughout the year, says that the vast majority of Jews "simply don't know the facts. For instance, the number of Jews in the 'new' neighborhoods (since 1967) such as Har Homa, Pisgat Ze'ev, Ramot, Ramat Eshkol, the Jewish quarter and more, are populated by more than 250,000 Jews – approximately the same as the number of Arabs in eastern Jerusalem." Fewer than 4% of respondents knew this fact, Silberstein laments.
"If a referendum is carried out regarding dividing Jerusalem," Silberstein warns, “the lack of knowledge among the public and its pre-conceived but ill-informed notions will have a significant effect. This is alarming, especially when there is a well-oiled and financed machine working relentlessly to persuade Israelis and the world as to the necessity of dividing up Jerusalem. Keep Jerusalem sees its task as impacting public opinion about the importance of keeping Jerusalem united under Israeli sovereignty.”
The KeepJerusalem survey also showed that a huge majority of 80% supports significant construction in the Jewish neighborhoods such as Gilo, Pisgat Ze'ev, Har Homa and others, despite the heavy international counter-pressure. Among the religious sector, a whopping 96% favor such construction.
"There is no public legitimacy for the quiet building freeze in Jerusalem," Silberstein concludes. "Prime Minster Netanyahu must realize that he has broad public support to renew massive construction in eastern Jerusalem’s Jewish neighborhoods, which has mostly been frozen over the last five years… If the current demographic trends continue as they are without major corrective actions, we might wake up in 15 years to an Arab Mayor of Jerusalem.”