JERUSALEM — A string of Israeli governments has helped cement the Jewish presence in Arab areas of Jerusalem by selling or leasing property to settler groups at bargain prices, court documents released Sunday show.
The establishment of these Jewish enclaves appears meant to make partition of Jerusalem along ethnic lines – generally seen as a key aspect of any future peace deal – exceedingly difficult.
Buildings were sold to settler groups in and around the sensitive Old City of Jerusalem at a fraction of the going market rates by governments that were involved in peace talks with the Palestinians, who claim those same areas.
Sharing Jerusalem is one of the touchiest issues facing Mideast negotiations. Several previous rounds have broken down over the fate of the holy city.
A key sticking point is a hilltop in the walled Old City, where the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound sits atop the ruins of the biblical Jewish Temples. Both sides claim the site.
The future of the rest of the Old City and its surroundings is just as contentious.
The Old City is divided into four quarters – Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Armenian – but in past years, populations mixed. In 1948, during the war that followed Israel’s creation, Jordan captured the Old City and expelled its Jews.