For the first time since the second intifada, an Israeli government summoned the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to Jerusalem, on Oct. 13. When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu first assumed power in 1996, his campaign slogan was “Peres will split Jerusalem.” It caught on like wildfire, greatly damaging the electoral chances of Labor Party leader Shimon Peres while exploiting the sacredness of Jerusalem to the vast majority of Israelis wherever they might be. Netanyahu raised the status of Jerusalem to a new level, turning himself into the city’s official guardian and protector. Since then, every time the issue of peace through diplomacy makes Israeli headlines, Likud spokespeople immediately jump into action, charging that the left will partition Jerusalem. These days, Jerusalem has truly been divided, but not by the left.
In case anyone has forgotten, a truly right-wing government is in control in Israel. For the first time, the government does not contain a moderating or centrist element as in the past, such as the Labor Party (Ehud Barak) or Kadima (Tzipi Livni). Even moderate Likud ministers like Dan Meridor and Michael Eitan have disappeared from the scene. Ironically, it is a rightist government that is being forced to acknowledge that Jerusalem is, de facto, divided — into the western and the eastern, the Jewish versus the Palestinian.