FEATURE-Struggle for Jerusalem goes on, four decades after war
* As Jewish settlements grow, Palestinians say squeezed out
* Nonsense, says deputy mayor, Palestinian numbers growing
* Preserving Jerusalem ID a struggle for many Palestinians
* Tens of thousands at risk of house demolition -U.N. body
By Tom Perry
JERUSALEM, March 24 (Reuters) - Wael Kawamle was raised by his Palestinian parents just outside the ancient walls of Jerusalem, yet his children have never visited that city.
They cannot get Israeli permission to live in the place their father calls home.
Today, Kawamle lives beyond a 21st-century wall that skirts Jerusalem's eastern rim. His home is technically within the city limits, as drawn by Israel, but beyond the "security barrier" it has built with the stated aim of keeping out suicide bombers.
Jobless, he has turned down work because the commute through checkpoints in the wall can take hours. And he cannot move home; Kawamle has an Israeli-issued permit letting him into the city but his four children, aged 14 to 24, do not. Like many, they are caught in the bureaucratic tangle of "Jerusalem ID".
The obstacles placed between Kawamle, his family and the city where he grew up have led him to a simple conclusion about the Israelis: "They are trying to keep us out of Jerusalem."
Forty-two years come June since Israel captured Jerusalem, the city remains at the heart of the Middle East conflict. For Israelis, it is their "eternal and indivisible" capital, the home the Jews dreamed of through 2,000 years of bitter exile.
For Palestinians, there can be no peace deal until Israel cedes them control over at least part of the city, a symbol of their national struggle and home to Islam's third holiest site.
Israel's military conquest of Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967 was for the Palestinians just the start of a campaign they think still aims to force them out, deepen Israeli control and render impossible any two-state peace deal that would divide the city.
Jewish settlement building around the city, pursued by successive Israeli governments, is now at the heart of a row between Israel and its main ally the United States, which says the policy is endangering its latest attempt to advance peace.
As Israel builds in Jerusalem, and encourages foreign Jews to settle there, Palestinians say it is pushing them out. Their leaders say Israel is working ever harder to "Judaise" the city.
Palestinians who face eviction and demolition orders from the Israeli authorities complain of planning restrictions that make it near impossible to build legally and residency laws that lawyers say treat them as foreigners in their own city.
But Naomi Tzur, the Israeli deputy mayor, said claims that Palestinians are being pushed out were "absolute nonsense". "We see in numbers that the Palestinian population of Jerusalem has grown faster than the Jewish population," she told Reuters.
Yet for many Palestinians, one in three of Jerusalem's 750,000 residents, hanging on to the Israeli-issued ID permit to reside in the city is a struggle that dominates their lives.
Israel revoked 4,577 Jerusalem IDs in 2008, accelerating such action massively, says Hamoked, an Israeli human rights group, citing Interior Ministry data. "That's more than 35 percent of the total since 1967," said Hamoked's Leora Bechor.
"These explosions in numbers we see as efforts to create a silent deportation, diluting the population of East Jerusalem in order to maintain a Jewish majority," said Bechor, an attorney.
One Palestinian who lost her Jerusalem ID in 2008 said Israeli officials cited her marriage to a fellow Palestinian who had become a U.S. citizen and had lost his own Jerusalem permit: She had "decided to seek residency in a foreign country".
Requesting anonymity for fear of damaging her appeal, she said: "I lost my residency rights in my own country."
Now staying in the United States and permitted only brief visits to Jerusalem, where her family have lived for centuries, she said: "We, the people of the land, are being thrown out."
Not everyone has the same complaint.
Shana Lipsky is Jewish. She moved from Chicago two years ago and soon got an Israeli passport. "It was very quick. It's much faster than in the States," said the 29-year-old mother of two.
Her family now lives in Neve Yaakov. To Israel it is a part of the Jerusalem municipality, but to Israel's Western allies it is occupied land in the West Bank, illegally annexed after 1967.
"FIGHT AND WIN"
Taking advantage of Israel's policy of welcoming all Jews to the state created in 1948 in formerly British-ruled Palestine, the Lipskys came partly to escape American materialism and to live their religious lifestyle in the biblical Jewish homeland.
While Israel offers passports and tax breaks to new Jewish immigrants, the Lipskys also had help from American Christians who believe that the end of the world and coming of the Messiah will be hastened when all the world's Jews live in Jerusalem.
The Lipskys have no doubts about their right to be there.
"When you fight and win territory, that becomes yours," said Shana's husband Noach. Citing Jews' biblical ties to Jerusalem, he added: "We have a much stronger claim to it than anyone."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed U.S. criticism this week: "The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 years ago and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today," he said in Washington. "Jerusalem is not a settlement."
Israel's allies see it differently. Settlements form a belt that separates Arab districts of East Jerusalem from the West Bank. They are in turn encircled by the snaking West Bank security barrier, built in recent years with the stated aim of keeping out suicide bombers. It has also cut tens of thousands of Arab Jerusalem residents off from the city centre.
Ir Amim, an Israeli organisation which says it aims for "a more viable and equitable" Jerusalem, says 50,000 new settler homes for East Jerusalem and annexed areas of the West Bank are passing through the planning and approval process.
Such building would "take a significant bite out of the last property reserves of the Palestinian neighbourhoods", it says.
While the Israeli government has led the settlement expansion project around Jerusalem, Palestinians say they have been forced to build illegally to house growing families.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that some 60,000 Palestinians are at risk of house demolitions in Jerusalem for building without permission.
Tzur, the deputy mayor, says East Jerusalem development has been neglected. "This was because in many ways everyone was holding their breath and waiting for some kind of final status decision about the city," she said, adding that allowance had been made for thousands of new homes under new plans.
But municipal planning is a controversial issue in a city where a third of residents do not recognise Israeli sovereignty.
Adnan al-Husseini, the Palestinian Authority-appointed mayor of the city, said Israel had no right to make any such plans. "This is a municipality of occupation," he said.
"There is a battle against the land and a battle against the people. They do not want people on this land." (Additional reporting by Jihan Abdalla, editing by Alastair Macdonald and Samia Nakhoul) (For related stories click on [ID:nLDE62M1LQ]) (For blogs and links on Israeli politics and other Israeli and Palestinian news, go to blogs.reuters.com/axismundi) *************************************************************** For a graphic on Jerusalem, click on: here ****************************************************************
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