YOU hear it first arriving at the airport. The car rental agency raises eyebrows, ``You're going to be staying in East Jerusalem? Be careful. And if stones smash your windows, report it to the police immediately.'' At the hotel, you hear that a reporter's car with yellow Israeli license plates was battered a few days earlier in the hotel parking lot. Not long before that, five cars were torched. In your first conversations, you hear that Jews from west Jerusalem now hardly ever visit the Arab eastern sector. Taxis are reluctant to come over. Foreign families, telephoning orders to stores in the West are told they will not deliver. The secular Israelis who would flock to the Philadelphia restaurant for a fine Arab meal on a Friday night or shop the Old City's bazaar on Saturday are absent. Police patrol day and night in knife-proof flak jackets, carrying clubs and Uzi machine guns.
The tensions and fears of the Palestinian uprising, the intifadah, have come to Jerusalem with a vengeance. The police riot on the Temple Mount, the Arabs' Haram al-Sharif, on Oct. 8 that killed at least 17 Palestinians was followed by individual acts of retaliation. Israelis were shocked as never before by the fatal stabbing of three Jews in a quiet west Jerusalem neighborhood, one of a series of random killings on both sides. The city is split in spirit as it has not been since 1967. The same applies to Israel and the occupied territories.
All this, against the background of incessant violence that marks the intifadah and the occupation. Casualties are, at the moment, not as high as in earlier phases but the contest of wills continues implacably. The Israelis want to convince the Palestinians that resistance is futile. The other side seeks to persuade Israelis that Palestinian self-determination, however long the run, is inevitable.
The first victim has been the hope that ran high when we were last here a year and a half ago. The Palestinians, having in principle accepted peace with Israel, dreamed that the US and the world would help them create an independent state.
The Palestinians had planned to build the foundations of their state even as they pressed the intifadah. They have not done so, although they have an example before their eyes. In the decades before the founding of Israel, the Jewish community, the Yishuv, assembled the building blocks of a nation state. It formed representative leadership, an economic base in agriculture and light industry, plus police and security organs.
Israel put itself together under the relatively tolerant rule of the British Mandate. Today, Israel's government is determined to prevent the Palestinians from doing the same. Israel's domestic intelligence organ, Shin Bet, has recovered from the confusion of the intifadah's first months. It has used Israel's total control of life in the occupied territories to penetrate the leadership and establish a seamless network of informers. It has deported the most outstanding figures and arrested literally scores of thousands.
While the Palestinians are active locally in such things as social welfare, medical assistance, and education there is no coordination on a nationwide scale. Attempts at economic independence from Israel are inadequate. Early on, the intifadah made policemen working for the Israeli civil administration quit. Yet, no Palestinian force took their place and security is chaotic. Young men, radicalized by summary arrest and imprisonment and brutalized by the daily humiliations of occupation have cast off traditional authority. They have killed more Palestinians this year than the Israelis have. The victims are called collaborators but they are said to include grudge murder and common crime.
The Israeli government may welcome its adversary's embarrassment, but it has no cause to rejoice. Occupied and occupier are in the same political dead end. The Palestinians have been thwarted in building their own state, but they are compelling the Shamir camp to see that Israel cannot incorporate the territories.
Shamir keeps trying. The number of Jewish settlers is now more than 90,000 and increasing at the rate of at least 5,000 a year. However, even with Russian immigration, Arabs are expected in 25 to 30 years to outnumber Jews between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. The Palestinians too are survivors. Their spirit is not broken.