It is not known yet whether the Annapolis meeting is going to deal with final status issues. Indeed, until now the main area that is being worked out between the parties is what level of substance this meeting should deal with and whether it is going to present a document that marks political progress on final status issues or just repeat the already existing commitment of the parties to negotiate these issues, already stipulated in the Oslo Declaration of Principles as Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security, water and borders.
The American suggestion to ensure that Annapolis marks a new achievement and not just an inauguration of the resumption of final status negotiations is to declare an independent Palestinian state whose components will all be negotiated later, including borders, capital, etc., etc. It is an idea that is not attractive to the Palestinian leadership because it will leave the substantial details and make-up of that state to the mercy of bilateral negotiations, i.e., to the balance of power between the two sides. Furthermore, this idea is similar to the second phase of the roadmap, which was already rejected by the Palestinian side.
The main reason American interlocutors are sympathetic to the Israeli desire to keep the Annapolis meeting insubstantial is their sensitivity to internal Israeli politics and the weakness of the Israeli leadership. The best evidence of this weakness was the reaction to recent media reports about possible discussions of final status issues, including on Jerusalem. More than one member of the coalition threatened to withdraw and let the government fall or used their platform to attack Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and further weaken him. As is usual under weak leadership, Olmert bowed to this pressure, and to placate critics both from left and right he activated certain Israeli policies regarding occupied East Jerusalem that had hitherto lain dormant as a result of international pressure.
The two prominent examples are the E1 settlement expansion plan--that links the West Bank's largest settlement Maaleh Adumim with other settlements in East Jerusalem thus encircling the city and practically cutting the West Bank in two--and the confiscation of a few thousand dunams of land from Arab villages near Jerusalem, including Abu Dis, for the construction of new bypass roads.
The discussion about including or excluding final status issues at Annapolis and the acceleration of illegal Israeli activities in occupied East Jerusalem that aim to consolidate Israel's grip on the city, has brought back attention to the thorny and sensitive issue of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a particularly important issue, because not only does it embody the final status issues of borders, settlements and security, it also includes elements that derive from the city's unique religious and historic importance.
There can be no agreement on Jerusalem unless the two sides start by agreeing on the proper political and legal terms of reference and accept to stick to these as the only framework under which resolution can be found. If they are not beholden to mutually agreed upon terms of reference each side will act only according to the logic of its own narrow perspective and from its own position in the balance of power.
There will be nothing to talk about and everything to fight about.
The terms of reference for the Madrid peace process, the Oslo agreement and the roadmap were all based on the relevant sections of international law and resolutions of the UN Security Council. These consider Israeli control over the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, to be an illegal military occupation and that a requisite for peace and normal relations is an end to that occupation.
Nevertheless, the religious and historical importance of Jerusalem needs to be taken into consideration, separate from the political and legal aspects. If an Islamic, Christian or Jewish religious or historical site winds up on one or the other side of the legal borders of 1967, it has to be accessible to the relevant community. Religious and historical rights have to be preserved alongside any political and legal agreement.- Published 29/10/2007 © bitterlemons.org
Jerusalem and the refugee/right of return issue were the two principal areas of Israeli-Palestinian disagreement that caused the collapse of the Oslo process at Camp David in July 2000 and thereafter. Since that time, we have only moved farther apart on them. But while the refugee issue has been dormant during the current countdown to Annapolis--both sides appear to understand that the extent of disagreement precludes even preliminary maneuvering--PM Ehud Olmert's government has publicly highlighted its plans for Jerusalem, thereby exacerbating tensions within Israel and between Israelis and Palestinians.
Olmert and Deputy PM Haim Ramon have spoken publicly about the need for Israel to divest itself of Jerusalem's outlying Arab neighborhoods and refugee camps like Walaja and Shuafat that never should have been included within its borders in the first place. Even Avigdor Lieberman, another deputy prime minister and a right winger, has concurred. At the same time, and presumably as "compensation" for those who object to Olmert "dividing" Jerusalem, he has given the green light for construction at E1, thereby physically linking Maaleh Adumim to Jerusalem, rendering any future solution that attaches Arab East Jerusalem to a Palestinian state that much more complicated and sabotaging Palestinian trust and confidence. Judging by the frontal attack against Olmert by the Likud-led opposition over his plans to "partition" Jerusalem, the prime minister's critics are impressed neither by E1, the peripheral nature of the areas Olmert apparently plans to offer the Palestinians at Annapolis, nor by Olmert's reassurances that Annapolis will not deal with "core" issues.
It is by now a familiar cliche that "all sides know what has to happen in Jerusalem": Jewish neighborhoods for Israel, Arab neighborhoods for Palestine, two national capitals and an international regime for the Holy Basin, including the Old City, Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, City of David and Mount of Olives. In short, the Clinton parameters or something like them. Yet at Camp David we realized just how far apart the two sides are regarding the religious/national issues of the Old City and the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. After years of intifada, including in West Jerusalem, we are no closer. Indeed, construction of the anti-terrorist fence/wall in and around Jerusalem has compounded the problem by "annexing" most of the city's Arab population to Israeli Jerusalem and separating them from the West Bank.
Apropos the fence, it seems that only in Jerusalem has a hollow slogan ("united Jerusalem, eternal capital of Israel") overshadowed the pragmatic enterprise that can be observed everywhere else in the West Bank of, roughly, separating Jews and Arabs into two separate states with a fence. The wall in Jerusalem is particularly grotesque insofar as the city is not in the least united, while Israel as a Jewish state needs neither the addition of 250,000 Arab residents nor Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods where Jews never set foot.
Ehud Olmert, who as mayor of Jerusalem and deputy prime minister contributed heavily to creating its current gridlocked political status, now appears to have at least partially seen the light. We can blame him for his past mistakes or welcome his change of heart. But we must also notice that, whereas some Israeli hard-line politicians have changed their views in accordance with their own and Israel's changing circumstances, Palestinian politicians have not. There is not the slightest indication that President Mahmoud Abbas and his coterie are prepared to compromise on the Temple Mount or, for that matter, the right of return or that they seek to prepare the Palestinian public for even minor concessions. More broadly, Islam--Palestinian Islam, Arab Islam in general--has failed completely in the seven years since Camp David to make room for recognition of the Jewish link to the Temple Mount, a sine qua non for an agreed solution there.
The immensity of this gap between the two sides is only one of the reasons why Annapolis is a premature and badly-formulated idea. Annapolis will not solve the Jerusalem issue. Olmert, on the other hand, can begin making a serious contribution to a solution by moving the security barrier so that it protects Jews from Arab terrorists and leaves Jerusalem's Arab population (with the exception of the Holy Basin, most of which--the Old City--is in any case walled) on the Palestinian side, and by putting a stop to provocative Jewish building projects in the heart of Arab neighborhoods. Arabs, and Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu, can view these with approval or anger as Israeli concessions. I would consider them necessary steps--regardless of the fortunes of the current problematic peace process--to maintaining Israel as a Jewish state and Jerusalem as its Jewish capital, backed by Israeli consensus and world recognition.- Published 29/10/2007 © 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 and a former special adviser to PM Ehud Barak.
A PALESTINIAN VIEW
A closed file
an interview with Adnan Husseini
bitterlemons: We've heard recently Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert talk about the outlying neighborhoods of Jerusalem and that Israel might be willing to "divide" Jerusalem. What do you make of this?
Husseini: First of all, we've been hearing such ideas for a while, but we also see the objections from many others in Israel, so we can't really trust these statements.
But there is something else very important to make clear. What is mentioned in these statements is not sufficient for the Palestinian side. The statements concern certain areas that are not part of the core of Jerusalem. We know Jerusalem as the Old City and the surrounding areas. In 1948, Jerusalem was 2.2 square kilometers, 1.9 of which were taken up by the Old City.
In 1967, the area of Jerusalem had expanded to 6.5 square kilometers, as a result of the natural growth of the city in those 19 intervening years. Now, after 40 years of occupation, it has reached 9 square kilometers, including the far-flung areas that are now mentioned as those Israel is willing to give back to the Palestinians.
Everything in Jerusalem is important. When we speak about Jerusalem on the political level, the core is the Old City and the holy places. If Jerusalem does not include these areas, we are not speaking about Jerusalem but just land, like any other in the West Bank.
We do not accept these statements because they mean Israel wants to annex East Jerusalem to the western side, and these statements are just a way of playing with us. They say they want to divide the city, but this is not the way. The city was divided in 1967 and there was a main border that was very clear to everyone. There was east and west, and these should become two capitals, one for the Israelis and one for the Palestinians.
bitterlemons: We hear a lot about the Taba talks and the Clinton plan and the idea that there should be some kind of division based on Jewish and Arab neighborhoods. Does this make sense?
Husseini: In the many recent discussions and meetings we've had, the Israelis have wanted to impose their understanding for every part of the city and in the Palestinian territories in general. We are not committed to any of this. We are committed to UN Security Council resolutions. It is very clear to everyone that we are speaking about 22 percent of Palestine and of Jerusalem as part of the occupied Palestinian territories. We cannot speak of any less than this.
bitterlemons: What about practicalities? Let's talk of the 1967 borders. Clearly there has to be some kind of open city arrangement. It is hard to imagine a hard border there.
Husseini: We are not talking about a divided Jerusalem in this way. Israel likes this idea of high walls. We do not agree to this vision. We want a city with two sovereignties, open to each other and with full recognition between the two sides. There will certainly be technical issues that will need practical resolution, but nothing to do with the fundamental issues of land sovereignty.
The holy places are a closed file. This is not negotiable. The Aqsa Mosque is not something that can be compromised on, nor is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This is a closed file. The Old City is the heart of East Jerusalem, and everything else is the natural extension of this city.- Published 29/10/2007 © bitterlemons.org
Adnan Husseini is an advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Jerusalem affairs.
AN ISRAELI VIEW
Creating the "Jerusalem paradigm"
by Daniel Seidemann
Sit any Friday afternoon on the corner of el-Wad St. and St. Stephen's Road in Jerusalem's Old City, just opposite the Austrian Hospice. Thousands of Muslim worshipers throng to the mosques on Haram al-Sharif. Additional thousands of Orthodox Jews flock to prayers at the Western Wall. And the brown-robed Franciscans bearing the cross turn the corner and proceed to the Third Station of the Cross. Lest this picture appear overly idyllic: CCTV security cameras are ever present, as are patrols of the Israel Border Police, while a handful of messianic Jewish settlers dart out of the Muslim Quarter alleys.
In that one small scene, you can see it all. Three mutually incompatible religious narratives--Judaism, Christianity and Islam--and two mutually incompatible national narratives, the Israeli and the Palestinian, cohabit the same sacred and secular space, not larger than three sq. km. in size. Jerusalem has an undeserved reputation for being nitroglycerin--any random jolt causes it to explode. That's nonsense. For the past 1300 years, Jerusalem has been the counter-paradigm to a "clash of civilizations". It isn't "fuzzy-warm" or "touchy-feely", and no "it's-a-small-world-after-all" tunes waft in the air, but it works.
That's the good news. Here's the bad news. Jerusalem's Old City is also the playground for Muslim, Christian and Jewish exclusionary fundamentalists who seek, respectively: Jihad, Armageddon and Wars of Mitzvah. Jerusalem may not be nitroglycerin, but if handled poorly, i.e., by allowing the radical fundamentalists to romp freely, it becomes a small atomic device.
The upcoming Annapolis "event" is not merely an attempt to substantively address the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is also--and perhaps foremost--an attempt to realign the forces of moderation in the Middle East into a powerful albeit uneasy coalition that will not only combat but provide an alternative to an ascending radical Islam. As such, Jerusalem will not only be a prominent item on the Annapolis agenda. It will also be the physical embodiment of Annapolis' goals--a non-violent interface between Islam, the Arab world and the West--or alternatively, an embodiment of Annapolis' worst dreams: the place where the tectonic plates of Islam and the West crush and grind one another, with all that ensues.
For decades, Jerusalem has been peddled as the "most difficult to solve" and left to some undetermined future date. No longer: Jerusalem's time has come. Regardless of how counterintuitive this may sound, seriously addressing the final status issues relating to Jerusalem is one of the easier ways of generating high dividends at a reasonable cost.
Because we all know what it looks like: "it" being a reasonably detailed set of contours of a final status agreement in Jerusalem. It is all over but the body count. After one previous, and failed, round of negotiations in 2000, and after years of the convulsive violence of the second intifada, it is five percent of the geography and five percent of the substance that remain to be resolved. And these will always be last minute decisions cut out of the hides of two courageous national leaders, when that time comes.
Approaching Annapolis, the lines of engagement have been drawn. Israeli PM Ehud Olmert will pull toward a watery, amorphous declaration of intent. The Palestinians will push for a high-pixel agreement. If Olmert insists on fuzzy "declarations of intent" it is doubtful that Annapolis will take place, much less succeed. And the insistence on detail at this stage on the part of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is not only unnecessary, but in all likelihood counterproductive.
Between these two respective positions, the wording of a Jerusalem declaration almost invokes itself:
In the framework of a final status agreement, Jerusalem will be a politically divided city. The Arab neighborhoods will become Palestinian al-Quds, the Jewish neighborhoods Israeli Yerushalayim, both universally recognized as their respective national capitals. In the Old City and its immediate environs, there will be a Special Regime or special arrangements, none of which preclude a division of sovereignty even in these areas. This regime or these arrangements will assure the integrity and the sanctity of the Holy Sites of all religions, pay reverence to the historic status quo, and assure that the Old City is an open city accessible to all.
No less will suffice, no more is necessary.
The Palestinians insist that declarations alone do not suffice, and a timetable is critical. "Agreements to agree", they assert, have always failed in the past. Israel insists that it is the timelines that have always failed, and that progress should be "performance-based" rather than "calendar-based". Both are correct.
More than Israelis and Palestinians being separated by the "what", they are separated by the "how". Israelis assert: given our deep concerns over Palestinian governance, security issues and the longevity of an Abu Mazen government, we will never head straight to an implementable endgame. Palestinians retort: we will never revert to "incrementalism", which during the Oslo years only allowed Israel to strengthen its stranglehold over the Palestinians.
And once again they are both entirely correct.
If the Annapolis process is to succeed, it needs to provide final-status deliverables relating to Jerusalem even before the details of a final status agreement are worked out. These steps can and must be sober and incremental enough to address Israeli concerns while "final status" enough to demonstrate that these are far more than empty declarations.
The day after Annapolis, Orient House should be reopened with Abu Mazen empowered to receive foreign dignitaries there. Subject to genuine security concerns, East Jerusalem should be re-linked to the West Bank. An international effort is in order to assist the Palestinians to build the organs of civil society in anticipation of their assuming "full-stop" sovereignty in East Jerusalem. The world churches, along with Israel and Palestine, must engage in an intensive effort to revitalize the Christian communities and institutions in Jerusalem and in the Holy Land.
The list is endless, and it is doable. Olmert can afford to pay the domestic political price, and will not jeopardize any substantive Israeli interest. These steps will provide Abu Mazen significant dividends, allowing him to retort to Hamas accusations: it is I and my approach, and only these, which offer the Palestinians a chance to recover al-Quds. And these will signify for all involved that substantive progress is being made on the ground toward the goal of resolving the conflict.
By calling for an Annapolis meeting, the Bush administration has raised the ante. A cancelled or failed meeting will leave us on the edge of an abyss. The prospect of a chaotic Middle East ridden with al-Qaeda-Hizballah-Hamas fundamentalism will be real indeed. Seriously addressing the political future of Jerusalem and creating the "Jerusalem paradigm"--where civilizations don't clash, but meet--may well contribute to the Annapolis "event" becoming the turning point that the parties, the region and the world so desperately need. The alternative is unthinkable.- Published 29/10/2007 © bitterlemons.org
Daniel Seidemann is an Israeli attorney based in Jerusalem and the founder of "Ir Amim", an NGO that deals with Jerusalem issues.
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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.