From the Palestinian perspective, East Jerusalem comprises the old city and 16 neighboring areas, but U.S. President Donald Trump’s so-called peace plan says otherwise.
According to the plan, known as “Deal of the Century,” which was announced by Trump on Jan. 28 during a press conference at the White House alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the old city and 14 Palestinian neighborhoods are annexed to what they called the “undivided capital of Israel” along with West Jerusalem.
In Trump’s plan, it says on Jerusalem: “While a physical division of the city must be avoided, a security barrier currently exists that does not follow the municipal boundary and that already separates Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem from the rest of the neighborhoods in the city. This physical barrier should remain in place and should serve as a border between the capitals of the two parties.
“Jerusalem will remain the sovereign capital of the State of Israel, and it should remain an undivided city. The sovereign capital of the State of Palestine should be in the section of East Jerusalem located in all areas east and north of the existing security barrier, including Kafr Aqab, the eastern part of Shuafat and Abu Dis, and could be named Al Quds or another name as determined by the State of Palestine,” it added.
The Palestinians were shocked by the U.S. plan, especially in terms of the status of Jerusalem, which prompted all Palestinian factions to reject it.
“Jerusalem, which the Palestinians know and won’t agree to any form of a replacement to it, are the lands occupied by Israel in 1967 and comprise the old city of Jerusalem and its Palestinian neighborhoods,” said Jerusalem Affairs Minister Fadi al-Hadami of the Palestinian Authority (PA).
“What the U.S. plan contains makes all East Jerusalem Israel’s capital along with other favorable terms for Israel,” al-Hadami said.
“The U.S. plan gave Israel all of East Jerusalem including all Islamic and Christian sites while no Palestinian or Arab could accept such a plan,” he added.
For the Kafr Aqab neighborhood located north of East Jerusalem, the Israeli segregation wall and Qalandia checkpoint separate it from Jerusalem and make it more connected to Ramallah.
Due to the high prices of apartments and housing units in Jerusalem’s Palestinian neighborhoods, many Jerusalemites over the past years moved to the Kafr Aqab neighborhood, where housing units are cheaper compared with other neighborhoods in occupied Jerusalem.
But the neighborhood lacks proper municipal services and infrastructure, which resulted in it becoming a slum.
For Shufat camp, the only Palestinian refugee camp in East Jerusalem, which was established in 1965, up until a few years ago, only Palestine refugees who held Israeli Jerusalem identity cards are residing there.
But the Israeli segregation wall, built in 2002, isolated the camp from East Jerusalem areas.
The camp also lacks proper municipal services and is considered one of the most crowded refugee camps.
Abu Dis town is located to the east of Jerusalem. Israel classifies it as part of the West Bank, although it is — according to Palestinians — part of Jerusalem governorate.
In 2002, the Israeli segregation wall isolated the town from Jerusalem, where it is only two kilometers away from Al-Aqsa Mosque, but it now requires tens of kilometers to reach Al-Aqsa Mosque from Abu Dis.
What combined these three areas is that the Israeli segregation wall isolated them from East Jerusalem and they are also small in size.
All three areas are also not connected with each other and separated from each other by Israeli lands according to the so-called U.S. peace plan.
Besides the old city, the neighborhoods that will be put under Israeli sovereignty and annexed to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital under the U.S. plan are Beit Hanina, Shufat, El-Esaweya, At-Tur, Assuwana, Wadi al-Joz, Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, Al-Thawri, Ras al-Amud, Jabel Mukaber, Sur Baher, Um Toba and Beit Safafa.
Khalil al-Tafakji, head of the maps department at the Arab Studies Society in Jerusalem, said the mentioned areas in Trump’s so-called ‘Deal of the Century’ “don’t fit for a capital”.
“Besides the political refusal, Kafr Aqab, Shufat and Abu Dis are areas that can’t comprise a capital,” al-Tafakji said.
“Abu Dis is surrounded by the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim from the east and the Israeli segregation wall from the west and north areas while there are deep valleys from its south.
“For Kafr Aqab, the segregation wall is isolating it from Jerusalem and making it connected with Ramallah. For Shufat camp, it is also isolated from Jerusalem by the wall and more connected to areas of the West Bank,” he added.
He also said that usually “the capital is supposed to be historically connected to the people in which only East Jerusalem covers this aspect” for the Palestinians.
From a geographical perspective, al-Tafakji added that “any capital must contain certain elements like spaces for government buildings and this is not present in the U.S. proposed offer for Palestine’s capital.”
Based on Palestinian statistics, the number of Palestinians living in Jerusalem and holding Israeli IDs range from 320,000 to 330,000, including 120,000 to 140,000 living in the isolated areas by the wall.
Ziad al-Hammouri, director of the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights, says that suggesting Kafr Aqab, Shuafat and Abu Dis as the capital means that the fate of 120,000 to 140,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem will be unknown.
Al-Hammouri questioned whether the Israelis would allow them to enter the areas which will be annexed to Israel according to the so-called U.S. peace plan.
“Would they need permits to reach Al-Aqsa Mosque?” he said.
According to the U.S. proposed plan, “it would allow the Arab residents of Israel’s capital, Jerusalem…to choose one of three options: Become citizens of the State of Israel, become citizens of the State of Palestine or retain their status as permanent residents in Israel.”
“It is clear that the plan comes to culminate the Israeli policies implemented over years, which is to decrease the number of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and to increase the number of Israeli settlers by expanding settlement activities in East Jerusalem along with annexing other Israeli settlements to it,” al-Hammouri added.
He said “the only remaining option for the Palestinian people is to have their capital in Ramallah by connecting it with Kafr Aqab, but it is absolutely refused by the Palestinians.”
Al-Hammouri concluded by saying that what the U.S. plan generally contains and what it contains for Jerusalem in particular are “the worst nightmare” for the Palestinian people.