Since 1967, when Israel gained control of East Jerusalem and "united" it with West Jerusalem to create its self-proclaimed capital, Israel has tried to control the city's demography. It has accelerated Israeli development while implementing a planning and zoning regime that limits Palestinian construction to a bare minimum. It has also enacted policies that effectively bar Palestinian "immigration" into East Jerusalem while reducing the number of Palestinians counted as residents in the city. But these efforts to cap the Palestinian population in Jerusalem have failed. In 1967, Palestinians represented 25.5 percent of the city's population. Today they are 38 percent, and within decades they will be the majority.
Neither the Palestinians of East Jerusalem nor Israel have ever viewed Palestinian residents of the city as Israeli. Despite the attempts of problematic polls that purport to prove otherwise, Israelis and Palestinians have demonstrated by their actions over the past 43 years that neither endeavors nor aspires to share a political community. While Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have been formally given the right to seek Israeli citizenship (in contrast to the Palestinians that found themselves living inside Israel following Israel's 1948 War of Independence, who automatically became citizens of Israel), less than 5 percent of the population of close to 300,000 have availed themselves of this right. Thus, today almost 40 percent of the population of "united" Jerusalem does not vote in national or municipal elections. In truth, "united" Jerusalem remains a bi-national city.
Today, 44 years after Jerusalem's "unification," Israel still does not provide most normal services or even build sufficient classrooms in much of East Jerusalem. Legal proceedings are currently pending before the Israeli Supreme Court to compel Israel's Postal Authorities to deliver mail in East Jerusalem. This dysfunctional reality is not typically rooted in malice, but rather in the political cultures of Israelis and Palestinians: Israel displays little, if any, interest in genuinely incorporating the Palestinians into Israeli Jerusalem, while the Palestinians determinedly reject the legitimacy of Israeli governance over their lives. In short, Israeli rule in East Jerusalem is a fiction.
Israel's efforts to physically unify the city, mainly through building large Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, have likewise failed. (These neighborhoods, by virtue of being located east of the 1967 lines, are viewed by the international community as settlements whose construction should cease and whose future will have to be determined by Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.) In Jerusalem, a border based on demography already largely exists today. The municipal boundary of Jerusalem, expanded by Israel in 1967 to extend far beyond those areas in which there are Jewish historical and religious attachments, include tens of Palestinian neighborhoods that most Israelis have never heard of. Few Israelis ever venture into areas in East Jerusalem beyond its Old City and Palestinians rarely visit the West. The two peoples lead separate lives, working and shopping in different areas and going to separate schools in which different curricula are taught.