April 13th, 2014

Mayor Nir Barkat on a divided Jerusalem

CNN’s FAREED ZAKARIA GPS features an interview with the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat. Barkat spoke about the peace negotiations between Palestine and Israel, and if the city of Jerusalem can be divided.

In the interview, Barkat said to Fareed, “There is not a solution of, God forbid, dividing the city of Jerusalem. It will never function. It’s against the DNA of the city.”

A transcript of the interview is available after the jump.



FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: On Monday at the end of Passover prayers, Jews around the world will say four words that hold great importance for them: next year in Jerusalem. This holiest city for the Jews contains, among many other sacred locations, the Western Wall, the holiest prayer site in Judaism.

Jerusalem is also, of course, where Jesus Christ is said to have been crucified and resurrected.

And the Dome of the Rock right by the Western Wall is where the Muslim prophet, Mohammed, is said to have ascended to heaven.

For all these reasons and more, the city is considered most holy for all three religions. Israel considers Jerusalem its capital, and the Palestinians have said time and time again that the only way they would accept a peace plan is if East Jerusalem is given to them as their capital.

I wanted to know if this is even in the cards, which is why I asked the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, to join me.


ZAKARIA: Mr. Mayor, a pleasure to have you on.


ZAKARIA: How would you divide the city; can it be divided because the Palestinians say that they must have a capital in Jerusalem, East Jerusalem. A lot of Israelis feel, no, undivided Jerusalem must be the capital of Israel.

Is there a solution?

BARKAT: Let me take you back 3,000 years. Jerusalem is the capital of the world, the temple among the middle, and it was never divided among the tribes.

But everyone was welcome to come to the city of Jerusalem. The DNA of Jerusalem is a united city respecting all people, residents, visitors, and Jerusalem has a role to play. And that DNA of the past, that’s how Jerusalem functioned for a thousand years, is our future. By definition, it cannot be divided.

Our role is to open up and to enable people that come peacefully to the city of Jerusalem to have freedom of religion like did not exist 2,000 years. Today you go to walk the streets of Jerusalem, you’ll find that the churches are managed by the Christians; the mosques are managed by the Muslims and the Jews manage the Jewish sites. It was not like that.

ZAKARIA: But what do you say to a Palestinian who says, yes, but you have your capital. If we are to have our state, we have to have our capital? Where would that capital — ?


BARKAT: There are solutions to that, but there is not a solution of, God forbid, dividing the city of Jerusalem. It will never function. It’s against the DNA of the city.

And by the way, there is not one example of a city in the world that ever got split and became functional.

ZAKARIA: What are the solutions? What are the solutions?

BARKAT: Well, I leave that for the national government. You can call Ramallah the center of the Palestinian people; they can bring their embassy to Jerusalem. Today they have freedom of movement, freedom of religion. Today Jerusalem is an open international city, and, by the way, it’s doing very well.

Jerusalem, if you look at the trends in the city of Jerusalem, our economy has been growing 8 percent from year to year. Satisfaction of all residents, Muslims, Christians, ultraorthodox, secular, is at a rise.

Our crime rates are one-tenth an average of any American city. When I fly to the States, I pray because I know I’m 10 times more exposed to crime in the United States than I am back home in Jerusalem. And all of that, the economy going north, crime rates going south, all of that, we must be doing something right.

ZAKARIA: For you, the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, which is where the Palestinians would like to put their state, you think it would not be possible to have a Palestinian capital?

BARKAT: A very clear no. I’m committed to serve all my residents, the Muslim, the Christian, the Jewish residents. For me they’re all the same. That’s what the Jewish tradition, that’s what the Jewish bible says. You have got to treat everyone equally, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.

And there are gaps to close on the Arab neighborhoods, on the Jewish neighborhoods, and I’m committed to closing those gaps.


ZAKARIA: I’ve never met a Palestinian negotiator who would accept that position, that they cannot have a capital in a part of Jerusalem.


ZAKARIA: Does that mean peace is unlikely?

BARKAT: I think it’s a demand that has to be off the table, because whoever raises such a demand doesn’t understand the importance of the city of Jerusalem as a united city.

And unfortunately, sometimes I feel that Israel does not have a partner to negotiate with because the charter of, unfortunately, many of the Palestinians and our neighbors, is to destroy Israel.

And when somebody wants to destroy Israel, sometimes we feel that this is a salami-style negotiations. Let’s take a piece now and then we’ll argue about the rest. The whole concept of negotiating with the Palestinians has to take another route. They have to understand that Jerusalem will never function as, God forbid, a divided city.

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