Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Begin's Governments and Jerusalem

Excerpted from an article by Nadav Shragia, Yet another decision about Jerusalem

What happened to the more than 330 decisions on Jerusalem that Israeli governments have made over the past 30 years? With the Annapolis conference behind us and negotiations on Jerusalem in the offing, along with the big dispute over the division of Israel's capital, there seems to be particular interest in a new study by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, which attempts to answer this question.

Reuven Merhav, a former Foreign Ministry director general, and Guy Galili, a research assistant, visited the government archives to find all such decisions from the years 1975-2005. Not surprisingly, they found that alongside the decisions that were implemented, many other decisions that could have changed Jerusalem's status were left to gather dust on the shelves.

...The record-holder for decisions on Jerusalem was the first government led by the late Menachem Begin, which served from 1977 to August 1981. It made 74 such decisions, averaging 17.5 a year. The second Likud-led government (August 1981-October 1983) made fewer decisions on Jerusalem than any other government during the period examined, averaging only five per year.

Even so, numbers are no indication of content, importance or implementation. In order to analyze the 330 decisions, Merhav and Galili divided them into sub-categories: declarative decisions; decisions on the status of Jerusalem; decisions on the Old City and East Jerusalem; decisions on land development, construction, industry, financial incentives, tourism, education, culture and welfare; and decisions on security matters.

The most decisions in any category - 122 - concerned development, land use, construction and incentives. Another 97 decisions addressed the status of Jerusalem. These hovered between being declarative and having a practical impact, such as transferring budgets or setting clear objectives. Several decisions in this category concerned the transfer of government offices to Jerusalem. These ostensibly could have affected hundreds of employees, who would then live in Jerusalem, strengthen the population and improve the Jewish side of the demographic balance, but Merhav and Galili call these decisions a "continuing saga."

In January 1977, for example, the government decided to bring all national ministry offices to Jerusalem. In late 1977 and early 1978, the Begin government demanded a timetable for the move, which would include shutting down Hebrew University dormitories in order to turn them into offices. Students are still living there to this day.

In February 1983 the second Begin government voted to act immediately to implement previous decisions on transferring national government ministries and government company offices to Jerusalem.