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Edition 2 Volume 2 - January 12, 2011

Protecting my rights  - an interview with Jamil Hamammi
Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state is the very least that Palestinians can accept.

What state without Jerusalem?  - Huda Imam
What's a Palestinian state worth without the people of Sheikh Jarrah, Wadi Joz and the Mount of Olives?

Arab demand for East Jerusalem is an obstacle to peace  - Efraim Inbar
Jerusalem's importance to the Jews is not only historic and religious; the city also holds strategic importance.

Jerusalem challenges the API  - Daniel Seidemann
In effect, the Palestinian/Arab sovereignty would declare itself the custodian of Jewish memories.

Protecting my rights
an interview with  Jamil Hamammi

B-API: What does it mean to you that the Arab Peace Initiative indicates that Jerusalem should be the capital of the Palestinian state?

Hamammi: This designation is very natural. The Arab Peace Initiative that spoke of the peace process, from its beginning announces that Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian state and has religious significance for Muslims and Christians. I believe that this designation of Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state is the very least that Palestinians can accept.

B-API: Do you think Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state is still possible, despite the Israeli settlement project?

Hamammi: The truth is that Israel destroyed what is called the "peace process." I am not fundamentally convinced in coexistence with these [Israeli] governments that are based on removing the other, and lack of recognition of the other, and on wiping out one people to replace it with another, and--as the international Zionist movement advertises--bases its work on "a land without a people for a people without a land."

All the practices of the Israeli government--whether from the left or the right--demolished any possibility for there to be peace programs in the region. And what it practices now, in demolishing the Palestinian people's historic places, for example the demolition of the Shepherd's Hotel, and the demolition of homes and bulldozing of lands and disenfranchising of Jerusalemites, has destroyed the possibility for coexistence in the city of Jerusalem.

B-API: Are you willing to share Jerusalem, as the capital of two states?

Hamammi: I believe that Jerusalem should stay one city, and the city that I know and studied in and lived in its streets and raised my sons in will not accept its division. The city has the Palestinian people's holy places, whether they be Christian or Muslim.

B-API: What does it mean to you to be a Jerusalemite?

Hammami: It means that I must carry this beloved city in my mind, my heart and my soul as a Jerusalemite, and to practice my rights as a resident of this city. I must protect my residency and my right to live here, and not allow myself to be expelled from this city and the holy al-Aqsa Mosque, as some of the Jerusalem representatives are being expelled by Israeli authorities. -Published 12/01/2011 bitterlemons-api.org

Jamil Hamammi is a lecturer at al-Quds University and secretary of the Higher Islamic Council in the Palestinian Authority.

What state without Jerusalem?
 Huda Imam

"Another Palestinian symbol is being demolished today in Jerusalem!"

It's an early Sunday morning in January, misty skies cover Jerusalem and my son wakes me up saying: "Mama, they are demolishing the Shepherd Hotel."

I was born and continue to live on a quiet residential street of Sheikh Jarrah, Baybers Street (which references the Mamluk al-Thaher Baybers). As a child, I remember my father's story about the Muslim conqueror Salah Eddine al-Ayyoubi who asked his surgeon who lived in this neighborhood, across the street from our home, to cure Richard the Lion Heart. That was in 1187 in Jerusalem. Amazing, how they were enemies at war and yet... This story about Salah Eddine always impressed me, probably because of the thirst Palestinians have today for a brave, yet kind and humane leader to rescue Jerusalem and its people from bulldozers.

Walking along the road in this once safe, residential Palestinian quarter, named in honor of Sheikh Jarrah, I recall other family stories of Issaf Nashashibi, who invited the likes of al-Rasafi, Khalil Sakakini, and Touqan to cultural evenings in his blue mosaic palace. I remember where Musa Alami, a brilliant Palestinian who played a key role under the British Mandate, also spent his days in the Mashrou' al-Inshai', with judge Nihad Jarallah, and the antiquary Victor Hallak and even more Palestinian Jerusalemite legacies.

Today, as I walk along the streets of Sheikh Jarrah, I spot huge ugly buildings: Israeli police headquarters built on the skeleton and foundations of a hospital, along the typically Jerusalem slope where we used to sled as children when it snowed.

The quiet of morning is broken by the sounds of Israeli intelligence officers coming from the home they confiscated as an office in 1967. The house belongs to the Murad family, and was rented by the Saudi Arabian consulate. Another conquest, another property and again--as in 1948--the "absentee law" is applied even when owners are present.

What's left of this neighborhood? A few Palestinian families who every day fear being thrown out, together with the nine "loyal" consulates: the French, Belgian, Spanish, Greek, Turkish, Italian, British, US and Swedish, respecting the city's "corpus separatum"--and let's not forget the symbolic office of the European Union.

What's a Palestinian state worth without the people of Sheikh Jarrah, Wadi Joz and the Mount of Olives?

What is its capital worth when the Old City is full of Jewish settlers? When extremist Jewish families are invited to dance in the streets of Tariq al-Wad, Souq Aftimos and Bab Khan al-Zeit to celebrate "Yom Yerushalayem" ("Jerusalem Day") when Palestinians who happen to live in Gaza and the West Bank, today the suburbs of Jerusalem, cannot even dream of reaching the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for Sept il-Noor (Saturday of Light) or the al-Aqsa Mosque on Lailat al-Qader (Night of Power)?

What's a Palestinian state worth when its capital's university is beyond two walls?

What's a state worth without freedom of education and or freedom of movement?

What does a Palestinian state mean to Jerusalemites obsessed with keeping their blue Israeli identity cards that actually only give them the "privilege" to be considered "tourists" or temporary residents in their own city?

Despite all this injustice on the ground aimed at deleting Palestinian-hood and the identity of the past and present, with a Museum of Tolerance being built on a seventh century Islamic cemetery--where Jamal Eddine my grandfather is buried--with house demolitions, identity and land confiscations practiced every day, I want to believe in a better future!

Despite the exhaustion of peace initiatives and the compromises made by the Palestinian leadership, the Arab Peace Initiative is a unique opportunity. The fact that Israel did not grasp it proves that neither its government nor its people have the good will to live side-by-side with Palestinians. Instead, Israel acts to try to make peace with the Arab world, secure its borders and develop its economy, casting Palestinians aside.

It requires bravery and humanity to bring justice, equality and freedom--this kind of peace begins with a Palestinian state in Jerusalem.-Published 12/01/2011 © bitterlemons-api.org

Huda Imam is general director of the Center of Jerusalem Studies, al-Quds University.

Arab demand for East Jerusalem is an obstacle to peace
 Efraim Inbar

One of the reasons the Arab Peace Initiative received a cold shoulder in Israel is its demand for the establishment of a Palestinian state "with East Jerusalem as its capital". A large majority of Israelis are ready for the partition of the Land of Israel and for the establishment of a Palestinian state, but they reject the Palestinian demand for a return to the 1967 line, particularly in Jerusalem. The Arab-backed Palestinian demand to partition Jerusalem is a major obstacle to peace.

This demand seems to reflect the Arab refusal to accept Jewish religious, national and historic claims to Jerusalem, and particularly the deep attachment to the Temple Mount. In contrast to Muslims and Christians, Jews have prayed for thousands of years toward Jerusalem. The Temple Mount is the holiest Jewish site, while no other religion relegates to Jerusalem such an importance. Israelis are bewildered by the campaign of the Palestinian Authority to negate the historic existence of the first and second temples. The recent research commissioned by the PA to prove that the Western Wall is not a place with Jewish religious links is further undermining the little faith Israelis have in Palestinian intentions.

Jerusalem has not been the capital of any Muslim or Arab political entity since the Arab invasion of Palestine in the seventh century. In contrast, it has been the capital of three sovereign Jewish states. Therefore, the demand to make Jerusalem, of all cities, the capital of a Palestinian state that never existed before looks so unreasonable. It is disconnected from the political history of the city and seems to constitute mainly a denial of Jewish roots in the city and in the Temple Mount.

The insistence on East Jerusalem is unreasonable also because Jews have held a majority in the entire city for the past 150 years. If the Palestinians claim sovereignty in parts of Palestine because there is an Arab majority there, the same principle of self- determination applies for Jerusalem. Two-thirds of Jerusalemites are Jewish. Even the Arab minority in the city has shown its preference for living under Israeli rule, as many have moved to the Israeli side of the security barrier being built around Jerusalem. Recent polls show much reluctance on the part of Jerusalem Arab residents, Christians and Muslims, to be included in a Palestinian state. Their choice is reasonable, as Jerusalem offers the quality of life of a modern western democratic city while only a few kilometers away the norm is a third world standard of living, chaos and religious intolerance.

Jerusalem's importance to the Jews is not only historic and religious; the city also holds strategic importance in controlling the only highway from the Mediterranean coast to the Jordan Valley along which military forces can move with little interference from Arab population concentrations. Jerusalem is the linchpin for erecting a security zone along the Jordan Rift. If Israel wants to maintain a defensible border in the east, it needs to secure the east-west axis from the coast to the Jordan Valley via an undivided Jerusalem and Maaleh Adumim.

Keeping greater Jerusalem, which includes the settlement blocs that US President George W. Bush recognized as realities that must be accommodated in a future agreement, is a strategic imperative. Arguments that ignore the immense potential for political upheaval east of the Jordan River and the fluctuating nature of military technology in order to minimize the military importance of Jerusalem and its central role in Israel's eastern line of defense are simplistic and/or opportunistic. Designing stable and defensible borders in accordance with current, but transient, state-of-the-art technology and political circumstances is strategically foolish.

Dividing Jerusalem within an attempt to end the highly charged Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a recipe for continuous tensions. A divided city, where a dispute over a garbage pail or a child's toy could escalate into full scale inter-state conflict, would be a political and municipal powder keg.

The partition of Jerusalem is simply a bad idea when the Zeitgeist dictates uniting cities such as Berlin, Belfast or Nicosia. Why should Jerusalem be different? An undivided Jerusalem is the best guarantee of a better life for all Jerusalemites.

The most practical reason for discarding the demand to divide Jerusalem is that it is a deal-breaker. Israeli public opinion is committed to maintaining the status quo in Jerusalem. Polls show that over two-thirds of Israelis reject the division of Jerusalem. When asked whether Israel should relinquish its control over the Temple Mount, over 70 percent of Israelis disagree, reflecting the electrifying hold of this holy site on the Jewish psyche. Such feelings are politically potent, foreclosing the possibility that Israelis will sit idly by and watch a transfer of sovereignty.

Israeli concessions in Jerusalem have continuously lacked the necessary domestic political support. After Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered to divide Jerusalem in 2000, his coalition disintegrated (for other reasons as well). Similarly, in 2008, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert experienced coalition difficulties because he placed Jerusalem on the negotiators' agenda. No Israeli government is likely to survive concessions in Jerusalem in the current political constellation. If elections are held in the near future, the strength of opposition to any concessions in Jerusalem will only grow.

In sum, the unreasonable Arab demand for dividing Jerusalem is an obstacle to a better future. Most Jews see it as "hutzpah" (insolence).-Published 12/1/2011 © bitterlemons-api.org

Efraim Inbar is professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies.

Jerusalem challenges the API
 Daniel Seidemann

The Arab Peace Initiative makes cursory reference to the issue of Jerusalem, stating only that East Jerusalem should become the capital of the Palestinian state. Yet the underlying architectural principles of the API can be identified, articulated and extrapolated to Jerusalem. In sum, the API re-frames "land for peace" into "end of occupation in exchange for legitimacy". It includes closure of the "1948 file"--end of claims--in exchange for acceptance of the 1967 border. How will these principles interact with the ebb and flow of Israeli fears and hopes regarding the future of Jerusalem?

The API points in the direction of a politically-divided Jerusalem, based on the binary principles of territorial sovereignty defined by the green line. This approach dovetails with the growing awareness in Israel that a unified, bi-national Jerusalem is not in Israel's national interest, and that over time, Israeli rule over close to 300,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem is not sustainable. The Israeli attitude towards occupation is increasingly reminiscent of Thomas Jefferson's quip that slavery is like holding a wolf by the ears: you don't dare hold on, and you are scared to let go. The API has the potential to provide a framework for Israel to "let go" of occupation in East Jerusalem, not as a retreat, but as a bold move made in the service of the two-state solution, and justifying a division of the city.

On the other hand, if the API devoutly sanctifies the green line, thereby mandating a dismantling of all Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, it is not likely to have much traction within Israel. There are 195,000 Israelis living in these settlements, and a proposed agreement that requires them to be uprooted will not likely get very far. But it is noteworthy that the Palestinian negotiating team has acknowledged publicly that the API does allow for mutually-agreed territorial adjustments that deviate from the green line. If this is indeed the case, the API principles offer Israelis the incentive of transforming the bulk of their settlements in East Jerusalem into universally-recognized parts of sovereign Israel.

The API is rooted in the language of legitimacy, and it is in this context that its potential impact on Israeli public opinion is greatest. There are no embassies in Jerusalem, nor does any state recognize the city as the capital of Israel. Ironically, it is only the Palestinians, acting in the framework of the API, who can deliver to Israel what it craves most in Jerusalem: legitimacy. A political division of Jerusalem will encounter fierce domestic opposition in Israel--but a division of Jerusalem that brings with it broad recognition of Jewish Jerusalem as Israel's capital, alongside the Palestinian capital of al-Quds, and with Arab embassies in both, will exponentially increase support for such an agreement within Israel.

If it is possible to envisage an agreed border in Jerusalem under API principles that deviates from the green line, it is highly unlikely that such accommodations will apply to the volcanic core of the conflict: the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount and its environs. The API is less prone to be sympathetic to ideas like a special regime in the Old City (ostensibly offered by Ehud Olmert to Mahmoud Abbas) or inventive ideas like "divine sovereignty" on the Haram/Mount (as articulated by the late King Hussein). Any attempt to construe the API in a manner that falls short of "full-stop" Palestinian or Arab sovereignty on the Haram/Mount would be an exercise in self-delusion.

This is the real challenge for the API. Achieving an Israeli waiver of sovereign claims to the Mount/Haram and the surrounding areas will be one of the most daunting challenges of any permanent status agreement.

The potential to secure an Israeli waiver of sovereign claims, to the extent such potential exists, is embedded in the logic of the API. Israelis correctly perceive Palestinian/Arab denials of historic Jewish connections to Jerusalem as a litmus test, disclosing the acceptance or rejection of authentic Jewish connections to Israel/Palestine. Absent an affirmative acceptance of these connections, demands to cede Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount would almost certainly be rejected out of hand, as such an action would for Israelis be accompanied by a sense of violation and feared loss of legitimacy of the entire historic enterprise that is modern Israel.

On the other hand were the permanent status agreement, loyal to the inner logic of the API, to include declarations recognizing the legitimacy of Jewish attachments and provisions guaranteeing the inviolability of Jewish equities under Palestinian/Arab sovereignty, the calculus could change significantly. In effect, the Palestinian/Arab sovereign would declare itself the custodian of Jewish memories and their physical embodiments. The act of assuring protection of archeological artifacts and guaranteeing access for non-Muslims to the Haram/Mount, would significantly increase the willingness of Israelis to entertain the possibility of such sovereignty. And, indeed, such a development is not implausible: today, from Rabat to Beirut, Cairo and Damascus, Arab governments are restoring Jewish synagogues because the historic, legitimate Jewish presence in their countries is part of their interpretation of Arab civilization--an interpretation shared by the API.

In conclusion, the API has the potential to "speak the language" of Jerusalem well. Its focus on the green line, with agreed modifications, is consistent with the growing consensus in Israel that Israeli rule over East Jerusalem is untenable in the long run. And indeed, based on the API's principles, validating Jewish attachments to areas that fall under Palestinian/Arab sovereignty--an act that would, in parallel, demand validation of Muslim attachments to sites within Israel, like the Mamilla cemetery--would likely be far less difficult than resolving what for the Palestinians and the Arab world is the highly problematic Israeli demand for recognition of "the Jewish character" of Israel.

All that said, the concern, even passion, in the Arab world regarding Jerusalem/al-Quds is undoubtedly genuine--but not always accompanied by a familiarity with the rival equities in the city, an appreciation of the city's real-time complexities, or a respect for the genuine concerns of Israelis and Jews. For these reasons, stakeholders in the API need to begin to educate themselves and their populations about Jerusalem. In doing so, they can begin to leverage the API to make real progress on Jerusalem. They can use it to generate potential permanent status positions that are compatible with both the complexities of the city and the sensitivities in the Jewish, Muslim and Christian worlds, and that contribute to building confidence in the API as a tool to energize Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and, ultimately, achieve Israel-Arab peace.-Published 12/1/2011 © bitterlemons-api.org

Daniel Seidemann is an Israeli attorney specializing in Israeli-Palestinian relations in Jerusalem.

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