On January 8, 2001, the largest gathering in the modern history of Jerusalem took place. More than 300,000 Israelis swarmed around the Old City’s Jaffa Gate. They came to protest the proposed division of the city of Jerusalem Bill Clinton and Ehud Barak as part of the failed Oslo process. One of the main speakers Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert [Yes that Ehud Olmert] declared then that Jerusalem would never be divided. He joined forces with the organizers of the rally Natan Sharansky and One Jerusalem to fight the Prime Minister’s plans.
Today the Conscience of Israeli Democracy–Natan Sharansky is once again working with the One Jerusalem Organization to rally public support against the division of Jerusalem. This time the Prime Minister that prime minister is that former Mayor of Jerusalem.
Former minister and world-renowned Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky on Tuesday launched a new public campaign against the division of Jerusalem, citing an acute “identity crisis” among Israeli political leaders.
The multi-million dollar campaign, which is being launched by the privately funded ‘One Jerusalem’ organization that was set up in 2000 in order to maintain Jerusalem as a united city under Israeli sovereignty, comes just one week before the planned peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland, and as the government is openly discussing the possibility of ceding Arab neighborhoods of the city to the Palestinians as part of a final peace agreement.
“Above all, Jerusalem is the base of our identity,” Sharansky said at a Jerusalem press conference announcing the launching of the campaign. “The problem is that there are many people who want to get rid of their identity,” added Sharansky, who has lately quit politics and has retired to a conservative Jerusalem research institute.
Sharansky, who resigned from the government of former Prime Minister Ehud Barak following Barak’s willingness to divide Jerusalem at the failed Camp David talks in the summer of 2000, said that any future division of Jerusalem would weaken the Jewish people around the world, and that the upcoming peace conference could bring long-term strategic dangers to the State of Israel.
The open-ended public campaign, entitled ‘More than anything else Jerusalem,’ will include radio and newspaper advertisements, special bus tours of Jerusalem in the coming weeks for tens of thousands of Israelis, an interactive Internet site, and the distribution of golden ribbons for the unity of Jerusalem, a spin-off of the orange ribbon which was the symbol of the former Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip.
“Once again Jerusalem is being threatened by a government that is interested in tearing apart Jerusalem for an illusory agreement,” said Yehiel Leiter, Director General of One Jerusalem.
Public opinion polls have shown that about two-thirds of Israelis oppose any division of Jerusalem. (source Sharansky: Dividing Jerusalem ‘crisis’)