Why Palestinians believe Israel is shifting the status quo in Jerusalem
Nisreen Awada can feel the status quo in Jerusalem literally shifting underneath her feet.
The Palestinian mother, 35, of six stays in a crumbling concrete home in Silwan, a contested East Jerusalem neighbourhood just beyond the Old City’s walls.
Ms Awada’s home, which she moved in to when she married at 17, has long been in need of renovations she could not afford. But now the ceiling is falling and there are cracks in the exterior walls.
Below Ms Awada’s home, Israeli archaeologists, backed by a right-wing nationalist organisation, are digging a tunnel that they say traces a road Jewish worshippers used 2,000 years ago. This is now set to be part of a larger tourist and religious attraction.
Local activist Jawad Siyam says that the digging damaged more than 70 Palestinian homes in Silwan’s Wadi Hilweh district, displacing some residents.
The government denies the tunnels are causing the damage and there is no official study linking the two.
It’s just one of the many physical reminders for Palestinians of how East Jerusalem’s access and infrastructure is fundamentally shifting – and with it the fragile status quo and sovereignty that was once built upon it.
Although many of these changes were already happening before Donald Trump became US president in 2016, analysts tell The National that American support for Israel’s extreme-right government has effectively given these projects a green light, despite the long-term consequences.
“It’s just trying to make East Jerusalem dead and immobile,” says Yara Hawari, a policy fellow with Al Shabaka, the Palestinian research network. “It’s about exerting [Israeli] power over the city and their dominance.”
Jordan ruled the east side of Jerusalem from 1948 to 1967. Israel captured the city in the 1967 War and soon after annexed it, a move most of the international community still does not recognise.
Peace plans have long proposed that East Jerusalem would be the capital of a Palestinian state, though it is unclear if the Trump administration’s long-awaited plan will continue with this precedent.
A third of Jerusalem’s population is Palestinian, but most are not Israeli citizens. Instead, they are permanent residents and must remain living in the city or risk losing their official status. Israel also bans the semi-autonomous Palestinian Authority based in the West Bank from operating in Jerusalem.