The future of Jerusalem has yet again presented itself as one of the most difficult issues in final status negotiations. This is not to say that other issues are either easy or have already been resolved, but the issues of Jerusalem and refugees appear the hardest to crack.
Of course, the issues under negotiation are mostly interrelated. Jerusalem cannot be fully resolved without resolving the issue of borders. The city was divided into east and west by the 1967 border and the eastern side continues to constitute occupied territory under international law. Nor can any resolution of Jerusalem be reached without at least some resolution to the issue of settlements, since a majority of Israel's illegal settlements in occupied territory are in Jerusalem and its environs. There is also a religious dimension to Jerusalem that centers on the status of the Old City.
One lesson that came out of the Camp David negotiations over Jerusalem is that the issue is not merely of paramount importance to Palestinians but also to the wider Arab and Muslim world. The late president Yasser Arafat used the Arab and Muslim dimension to the issue to underscore the fact that it was not in his power to make concessions over the city in negotiations with Israel.
Israelis, however, seem to have misunderstood this position to mean that Palestinians might make concessions over Jerusalem if the Arab and Muslim world could be persuaded to accept this. Thus, many Israelis concluded, if the Arab and Muslim position on Jerusalem could be neutralized, the Palestinian leadership would be freed to take a "more flexible" position.
There are two obvious misperceptions that need to be corrected in this conclusion. The first is to underline that Arabs and Muslims are in complete agreement with the Palestinian leadership on the issue of Jerusalem as well as other aspects related to negotiations between Israel and Palestinians. The basis of this common position is very simple: there is a need, in accordance with international law and United Nations resolutions, to end the occupation of all territory taken in the 1967 war. This includes East Jerusalem.
The other is to point out that this agreement, based on the principle of international law, means that it is neither the case that Palestinians will not concede over Jerusalem because Arabs and Muslims won't let them nor that Arabs and Muslims won't concede over Jerusalem because of Palestinians. There is no "concession" to make over the issue. As such, it is a major mistake by Israel to continue to ignore the Arab peace initiative, which clearly spells out the Arab position and reflects a consensus.
The recent Israeli suggestion to involve an Arab or Islamic dimension in the negotiations on Jerusalem and the concomitant invitation to certain Arab or Islamic parties is a result of the above misunderstanding. It is probably also a tactic to further delay progress in negotiations. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has shown himself mostly interested in dragging out negotiations in order to prolong his own grip on power and avoid his domestic travails. Unfortunately, Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister and Olmert's likely successor, seems equally likely to want talks to continue as long as possible without result in order to prolong her own tenure. In other words, the conclusion that was reached by Ahmed Qurei, the chief Palestinian negotiator--that domestic Israeli political developments are not at all conducive to progress in the peace process--appears correct.
What Israelis need to understand is that neither the Palestinians nor the Arabs are willing to accept any kind of solution concerning borders, Jerusalem, settlements or refugees that gives Palestinians less than their rights according to international law. In other words, Israeli control over the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip constitute an illegal and belligerent military occupation that must end in full for conflict to end.- Published 8/9/2008 © bitterlemons.org
Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications. He is vice-president of Birzeit University and a former Palestinian Authority minister of planning. He holds a PhD in Middle East politics from the University of Durham.
AN ISRAELI VIEW
We need Arab state involvement
by Yossi Alpher
Prospects for a genuine breakthrough in the current Israeli-Palestinian peace process are close to nil. Indeed, for a variety of reasons deriving mainly from weak leadership and dysfunctional political systems, the process has never enjoyed a serious chance of success since its initiation at Annapolis last November. But something can always be learned even from a failed peace process. Just conceivably that something may be connected to Jerusalem--the one topic the two sides are ostensibly not discussing.
In this connection, the non-negotiations over Jerusalem in the current Israeli-Palestinian peace talks recently produced an interesting innovation: the Olmert government reportedly proposed that when negotiations over Jerusalem do take place, they involve additional parties with a direct interest in the outcome. The quartet (the US, UN, EU and Russia) was of course mentioned. Jordan, whose role and interests in Jerusalem were written into the Jordan-Israel peace treaty of 1994, and Morocco, whose king heads the Arab League's "Jerusalem committee", were also named.
We recall that the only time in the recent past when Israelis and Palestinians did try to negotiate Jerusalem, at Camp David in July 2000, it quickly emerged that one of the principal obstacles to progress was the absence of these and additional Arab and Muslim third parties. None of the three teams at Camp David, the United States, Israel and the PLO, had bothered to brief the Arab world in advance about the nature of the Jerusalem discussions, and by the time the need for Egyptian, Saudi and other Arab and Muslim state input was recognized by Washington it was too late.
Arab and other outside participation in discussing a Jerusalem settlement does not, as critics on the Israeli and Jewish right argue, have to mean "internationalization" of the city. Nor does it bespeak an attempt by the international community to gang up on Israel and compel it to forego its legitimate demand that Jerusalem, including all its Jewish neighborhoods, be recognized as the capital of Israel, that the sanctity of Jewish holy places be guaranteed and that all Jerusalemites live in security. In recent years, a succession of Israeli governments has increasingly acknowledged both Israel's objective need and its capacity to involve the international community in solving or mitigating its conflicts with neighboring non-state actors.
The simple reality is that neither Jerusalem nor the refugee issue can be resolved without the participation of additional Arab countries. Just as the PLO needs the support and contribution of those Arab states that host the Palestinian refugees in order to make the necessary compromises with Israel on the right of return issue, so it cannot permit itself to make binding decisions on its own regarding the disposition of Muslim (and Christian) holy places and Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem without the backing and involvement of the leading Arab and Muslim countries. While in any negotiating framework Israel can represent Jewish interests in the holy city, the Palestinians alone cannot represent Muslim interests with regard to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif complex with its two mosques. Yasser Arafat admitted as much at Camp David, and he was a far stronger leader than Mahmoud Abbas.
Israel does not have to invent a new international framework in order to solicit the necessary Arab involvement; the Arabs themselves have created it, in the form of the Arab peace initiative of 2002 and 2007. Now the time has come for them to acknowledge and exploit the opportunity they have created.
The difficulty in linking the Arab peace initiative directly to Arab involvement in a Jerusalem settlement is not posed primarily by Israel. The Olmert government and its predecessors may bear the blame for creating many of the physical obstacles to a rational Jerusalem settlement based on two capitals and two demographic units. But it is the leading Arab countries that, having offered Israel normalization and security in return for peace settlements, now refuse to participate in bringing about those settlements. In this respect, the good news is that their very reluctance signals that, when the Arab states do lend a hand, they are not likely to try to impose anything on anyone.
The current peace process is almost certain to dissipate within weeks or months, if only because of the upcoming political turmoil in Israel. A breakthrough on Jerusalem is the last thing we can expect. Elections in Israel and Palestine may, in the course of the coming half year or so, render a renewed peace process even more difficult.
Meanwhile, regional circumstances, particularly in Iran and Iraq, have placed the mainstream Arab states in a growing strategic predicament whereby their need to resolve the Arab-Israel conflict grows apace. They may justifiably have patted themselves on the back for their admirable peace initiative; they can certainly make a case that Israel has to do more to fulfill its end of the proposed deal. But they cannot escape the need to take additional courageous steps of their own toward advancing a solution.
Jerusalem provides the perfect opportunity. Let the Saudis, Egyptians, Jordanians and Moroccans declare that they are partners, alongside the PLO, for discussing and implementing fair compromise arrangements in Jerusalem that respect the legitimate rights and needs of Israel and the Jewish people.- Published 8/9/2008 © bitterlemons.org
Yossi Alpher is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications. He is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.
A PALESTINIAN VIEW
Miles apart over the same city
by Mahdi Abdul Hadi
There are varying conceptions in reading, understanding and presenting the question of Jerusalem by the concerned parties. These have led to a number of crises in negotiating Jerusalem.
The first crisis is the differing views over what Jerusalem we are talking about. The logical and reasonable approach is to talk about Jerusalem according to the partition plan of United Nations Security Council Resolution 181 of 1947. UNSCR 181 provides for the city to be a corpus separatum under international trusteeship and a center for two states, an open city or joint capital embracing a variety of identities and citizenships, Israeli, Palestinian as well as international.
With the Oslo accords of 1993, however, the terms of reference changed to the two-state-solution based on UNSCR 242 of 1967, which foresaw a division of the city along the pre-June 1967 armistice line. As the leading Palestinian negotiator, now and in Oslo, Ahmed Qurei, has put it: "Palestinians agreed to give up West Jerusalem in Oslo and they cannot afford to share East Jerusalem."
The second crisis is the contradiction in aspirations for the city's future. Negotiators have been discussing Jerusalem not on any agreed formula but on a combination of what their personal understandings of history, faith and legend are. In recent interviews, President Mahmoud Abbas says he wants East Jerusalem as it was before 1967. But Qurei and many others, realizing that time for the two-state solution has nearly passed, are beginning to advocate a bi-national state with one Jerusalem--East and West--as the capital for the two people. Outside the realm of negotiations but an important player nevertheless, Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal says that for him, Jerusalem means land, geography, history and religious heritage and is not just the name of a piece of land in the West Bank. Meshaal said he would never share it with Israel.
On the Israeli side, Shimon Peres insists on Jerusalem as Israel's eternal capital, not to be divided or shared except through minor arrangements regarding holy sites. Kadima's Shaul Mofaz and the Shas party have accused Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Livni of partitioning Jerusalem when they discussed the possibility of giving up some Palestinian neighborhoods. On the outside, Likud's Binyamin Netanyahu has stated repeatedly that Israel will never give up an inch of Jerusalem and the Knesset recently passed two laws to this end.
The third crisis is that of the third party. The US has never been a credible mediator. A most glaring example is Washington's very own 2003 roadmap that calls for "clear phases, timelines, target dates and benchmarks". Yet the US accepted Ariel Sharon's 14 reservations and then went along with his unilateralism. Thus, while Israel could rely on its partners in the US, Palestinians have been left out of the game. (Even when Arab countries have tried to step into the breach, their efforts, notably the 2002 Arab peace initiative, were simply ignored. This is in spite of the fact that it offers Israel comprehensive peace with the entire Arab world in return for abiding by international law.)
The US will continue to be a biased player. The statements by the current presidential candidates on the issue of Jerusalem in particular promise little in the way of a fair resolution.
The fourth crisis is one of leadership. There was always a question mark over how far Olmert could lead Israeli negotiations while facing allegations of corruption and stepping down as head of Kadima. At the same time, Mahmoud Abbas has been negotiating against a backdrop of not only a divided Palestinian society but a divided Fateh movement, and he remains haunted by his "end of term", due in January 2009.
Without resolution or clarity to the abovementioned crises, future negotiations will stand little chance of success. Suggestions to bring in Arab countries--including Jordan, which, with the 1994 Washington Declaration and against the wishes of the Palestinian side, became the custodian of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem--will not resolve any of the problems and can be considered mere time-wasting tactics.
Besides, there remains a lack of a culture of recognition and appeasement. The rhetoric of both sides is devoid of conciliatory messages and does not spark hope of any new promising approach to talks. Under these circumstances, one must doubt that future talks can be conducted with the depth and seriousness needed to reach a workable agreement satisfactory to all parties.-Published 8/9/2008 © bitterlemons.org
Mahdi Abdul Hadi is the head of PASSIA, the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs in Jerusalem.
AN ISRAELI VIEW
Nothing new in Jerusalem
by Menachem Klein
Imagine someone who fell asleep in July 2000 at Camp David or January 2001 in Taba and awoke in the summer of 2008 in the King David Hotel to the strains of Israeli and Palestinian negotiators arguing over peace. He would not feel the passage of time. He would immediately identify the members of the Palestinian team and their views, ask himself why the Americans aren't in the room, then survey the Israeli team. The faces of the Israeli negotiators would not be familiar, yet the views they express, their tactics and strategy would identify them immediately as Israelis. It would also become clear that not much had changed since the observer fell asleep eight years ago. In short, the Annapolis process has not advanced Israeli-Palestinian negotiations; rather, it has pushed them backwards in a time tunnel.
Israeli PM Ehud Olmert may have declared that there are no negotiations regarding Jerusalem, but in discussions over territory it has proven impossible to avoid defining the boundaries of the Jerusalem that is not being discussed and the extent of proposed Palestinian sovereignty. In the current Annapolis discussions, Israel has defined Jerusalem in accordance with the path of the security fence approved by the government in 2003. This path is nearly identical to the definition of Jerusalem in a map presented by Israel in 2001 at Taba. In other words, Israel is redefining the borders of Jerusalem. Not only is the 1949-1967 armistice border with Jordan no longer relevant to Israel, neither is the annexation boundary set by Israel in late June 1967. Approximately four out of the nine percent of the West Bank that the security fence seeks to attach to Israel are defined by Israel as "greater Jerusalem".
In the course of the Annapolis talks, Israel has presented ideas that clarify its intentions regarding Jerusalem. First, Israel stated that it sees the path of the fence separating Israel and the West Bank as the future border between two sovereign states. The fence will determine the border for both the West Bank and Jerusalem. Postponement of discussion of "greater Jerusalem" is intended to render it easier for the weak Palestinian leader to swallow this bitter territorial pill.
Israel is not proposing, however, to freeze the situation in Jerusalem. On the contrary, it is expanding settlements in this area, just as it did during the Oslo period. According to data collected by Peace Now, the volume of tenders for construction in East Jerusalem since the Annapolis negotiations commenced has expanded 38-fold compared to the previous year, while the number of construction plans submitted for approval has risen four-fold. To these figures we must add the energetic activity of Jewish settler organizations purchasing houses and land in Jerusalem's Palestinian neighborhoods in order to prevent repartition of the city along ethnic lines, and the expansion of settlements just beyond the city limits.
Second, as at Camp David II in July 2000, Israel proposes that administration of the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif be in the hands of the Muslim waqf, with a "safe passage" corridor linking the holy places to the Palestinian state. In other words, Israel is not considering granting Palestine sovereignty over the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, and the religious administration of Haram al-Sharif will be separated from issues of sovereignty. The state of Palestine will not enjoy full sovereignty over Haram al-Sharif, and Israel also will have some sovereign authority.
Third, Israel proposes establishing an international framework of states that have links to the Old City, that will accompany the negotiations and provide auspices for the eventual agreement. Israel may also be considering integrating these countries into the agreed mechanisms that accompany and define implementation of the agreement. Presumably, Israel does not intend to internationalize East Jerusalem at the expense of Israeli sovereignty. In this sense, the Israeli proposal is intended to recruit international--mainly Arab--legitimacy and support for an arrangement that contradicts the Arab peace initiative approved at every Arab summit since 2002.
The Arab plan seeks to divide Jerusalem along ethnic-national lines: all the Jewish neighborhoods and the Western Wall to Israel, and all the Arab neighborhoods and Haram al-Sharif to Palestine. Israel hopes that, together with the United States, it can bring the weak West Bank government to accept its proposal. This would replace the current situation, in which the Arab and Islamic states line up behind the Palestinians and create a consensus that even Hamas has to accept.
Israel assesses that its plan cannot be realized now. Hence it seeks to postpone any decision over Jerusalem while it alters realities on the ground in its favor. But just as Israel failed in 2000 to compel Palestinians to accept its plan, so it can be expected to fail now as well.- Published 8/9/2008 © bitterlemons.org
Dr. Menachem Klein teaches political science at Bar-Ilan University. He was a member of the Geneva accords negotiating team and an adviser to the Israeli delegation to Camp David in 2000. His book A Possible Peace between Israel and Palestine was published a year ago.
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Bitterlemons.org is an internet newsletter that presents Palestinian and Israeli viewpoints on prominent issues of concern. Each edition addresses a specific issue of controversy. Bitterlemons.org maintains complete organizational and institutional symmetry between its Palestinian and Israeli sides.