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Whose Jerusalem Is It?

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"God Wills It," cried the French Pope Urban II at the synod of Clermont, in south-central France, in 1095, as he exhorted battle-thirsty Frankish and Lombard nobles to go forth and capture Jerusalem for Christianity, as had been requested of him by the Byzantine Emperor. It was one of a number of mistaken Christian ventures into Islamic lands, on down to our day.
As the nobles made their way, along their route they acquired more adherents - German nobles and various commoners. It was a long voyage. At one rest-stop along the route, Ratisbonne (now Regensburg, in Bavaria) they encountered a community of Jews and proceeded to massacre them. This was a pattern that would repeat itself in subsequent crusades. The crusaders finally took over Jerusalem in 1099 and engaged again in massacres.
The First Crusade, as it was known, was one of eight, lasting for a period of three centuries after Pope Urban II's call in 1095. Jerusalem changed hands back and forth. The Crusaders were first driven out by the Muslims in 1187, led by an exceptional Kurdish warrior, Saladin. When Muslims again captured Jerusalem in 1244, the city was not again in Christian hands until General Allenby marched in in 1917.

"The Last Crusade"

In what Orlando Figes termed, "The Last Crusade," he emphasized that in the Crimean War (1853-1856), all the major players considered that they were in the midst of a crusade. At the heart of the war's cause was the rivalry between the Roman Catholics, supported by France, and the Greek Orthodox, supported by Russia, over who would control the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
Into this situation leapt Napoleon III, who had a history of quixotic military adventures aimed at emulating his demonic genius of an uncle. Under Napoleon III the French succeeded in persuading the Ottoman Sultan to give Roman Catholicism the lead in managing the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In 1853, the Sultan issued a decree to this effect, known as the Status Quo, which meant that it should not be altered in the future. The decree offended the Eastern Orthodox Church, which had theretofore shared the custodianship of the church. The result, ultimately, was the Crimean War of 1853-1856, pitting the British, the French, and the Turks against the Russians, the former being anxious to check Russian ambitions, in the straits and elsewhere. The war brought forth the charge of the Light Brigade, prompting a famous remark by a French General observing the carnage, "C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre."
Today the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is jointly supervised by the following religions: Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox.

A Shared City?

It is the least one can say that Jerusalem has had a varied and contested past. According to the Century One Bookstore on the Internet, there are twelve "periods" of governance that have existed in Jerusalem. In terms of being a ruling civilization, the Jews were the first, under King David, in the tenth century B.C. Again in terms of governance, and except for two brief uprisings at the beginning of Common Era, Jews are not involved in the running of Jerusalem for virtually the next two millennia - not, strictly speaking, until the Six Day War of June 1967, when their reach was then extended from West Jerusalem to East Jerusalem, including the Old City and its Holy Places. In the nearly 2,000-year interim, that is, from the beginning of the Common Era, the "periods," or regimes, were as follows: Roman, Byzantine, Arab Caliphates, Crusader Kingdom, Mameluk, Ottoman Turk, British Mandate, and Jordanian.
On the other hand, the former mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek, and Moshe Pearlman, his co-author of "Jerusalem, Sacred City of Mankind: a History of Forty Centuries,"1 see essentially a Jewish continuity in the city:
...the golden thread, the consistent theme running through the history [of
Jerusalem from earliest times] is the unshakeable association of the Jewish people with the city...throughout the three thousand years since David made it the seat of Israel's authority, the spiritual attachment of the Jews to Jerusalem has remained unbroken.
Kollek and Pearlman notwithstanding, Jews have rarely been involved in the running of Jerusalem throughout history. Is this not, therefore, an argument for the sharing of Jerusalem?
Jerusalem is the third holiest place for Islam, after Mecca and Medina. Regardless of whether or not one might believe that the Koran is the direct word of God, or that the Prophet ascended from Jerusalem into heaven, it is incumbent on outsiders to respect these tenets of Islam and not to denigrate them. The kind of zero-sum thinking that many Israelis exhibit when talking about Jerusalem is perhaps the greatest obstacle to a peaceful settlement. The following comment by Jerome Spielman, the International Director of Development of the City of David archaeological project, is one example:

There is no other place in the world where the Jews want to live more than here [Jerusalem]; the Arabs have Mecca, they have Medina; and they may also have an interest in Jerusalem; but for the Jews, this is our only home.2

The Arabs can perhaps be forgiven for having the impression that the State of Israel represents a new colonial implant from Europe. But it is hard to call it a colonial rule when the Jews were there first! This has led to all sorts of Arab denials and flights from reality - including Yasir Arafat's delegitimizing claim to Dennis Ross that the ancient Jewish temple was located not in Jerusalem but in Ramallah!
But the myriad nature of Jerusalem's history raises the question of why Israel should have exclusive governance over the city. Binyamin Netanyahu's statement that "Jews have been building in Jerusalem for three thousands years and will continue to do so" (by way of exempting East Jerusalem from a settlement freeze) is another example of the extremes of propaganda that both sides exhibit. Such a bald assertion is of a piece with Arab claims that the Israeli experiment is a manifestation of colonialism or neo-colonialism. The hollowness of Netanyahu's statements on Jerusalem is patent when one notes that his two immediate predecessors, Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, offered East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital. Barak's offer was made public at Camp David in 2000, but the overall agreement was rejected by Arafat.
What has been left behind in Jerusalem is not just a collection of artifacts - "holy places" to be protected by the latest of the many regimes that have passed through the city. These are the remnants of the previous civilizations - the magnificent Dome of the Rock and the adjacent Al-Aqsa Mosque, joined by the Esplanade (known to the Jews as the Temple Mount and to the Arabs as the Noble Sanctuary) - surpassing anything the other civilizations have produced, whether Byzantine, Crusader, Jewish, or Ottoman. In this sense, is it not jarring that most of the leading photographs of Jerusalem are centered on the Dome of the Rock, including the cover of the above-mentioned book on Jerusalem? Does it not beg the question that is the title of this article: whose Jerusalem is it? Do not the civilizations that produced these monuments have a stake in the destiny of the city?

The Geneva Accord

The Geneva Accord of December 1, 2003 reprised the offer of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem made by Ehud Barak at the failed Camp David summit in the summer of 2001. (It was an offer that was subsequently made by Barak's successor, Ehud Olmert, in 2009, rejected by Mahmoud Abbas). The Geneva Accord was a follow-on initiative to the failed Camp David talks of July 2001; to the so-called Clinton Parameters of December 2001; and to the subsequent Taba negotiations that were broken off in January 2001. The Accord (sometimes called the Geneva Initiative) is a 40-page draft peace treaty between Israel and a state of Palestine drawn up by a small team of Palestinian and Israeli moderates who felt that things had come so close at Taba that it was worth picking up the threads again. The Israeli side was made up of ex-officials, and the Palestinians were mostly serving officials. After an initial meeting in South Africa, the scene moved to Geneva, where the Swiss Government gave financial support to the effort, a negotiation that lasted nearly three years, until December 2003. Though it has no official status, it is the only draft peace treaty that has been signed by Palestinian and Israeli negotiators. The signatures were contained in a cover letter sent to the Swiss Foreign Ministry. It is out there in the public domain, for possible use by future negotiators, for third party interventions, or for use in political platforms.
The Geneva Accord stated that "the Parties recognized Palestine and Israel as the homelands of their respective peoples." In Jerusalem, sovereignty was to be divided between those areas of the city that were predominantly Jewish and those that were predominantly Arab. Accordingly, Jerusalem was to be the capital of both Israel and Palestine. ("the Parties shall have their mutually recognized capitals in the areas of Jerusalem under their respective sovereignty"). The Temple Mount was to be eventually under Palestinian sovereignty and the Western Wall was to be under Israeli sovereignty. Maps were annexed to the text delineating which areas of the city were to be under the respective sovereignties. A follow-on annex to the Geneva Accord, in 2009, spelled out a range of security conditions.
Other salient features of the Accord were agreements on: borders (the 1967 lines with modifications based on land swaps on a one-to-one basis;3 a non-militarized Palestinian state with a Palestinian Security Force; an international force for supervisory purposes; and a right of return which, though recognized in principle, leaves it to Israel to decided which Palestinians would be allowed to return to Israel proper.
The Geneva Accord has never become official policy, although the negotiators on both sides had broadly recognized status.
The then Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, repudiated the accord, and his successor, Ariel Sharon, denounced it.

U.S. Policy: Does not a Two-State Solution Beg the Question of a Two-Capitals Solution

After the Six Day War in 1967, when Israel extended its laws and administration to newly-conquered East Jerusalem, the U.S. declared that it "does not accept or recognize these measures as altering the status of Jerusalem."
The European Union's Foreign Affairs Council, on December 8, 2009, issued a statement on the Middle East peace process that contained the following language:
The Council recalls that it has never recognized the annexation of East Jerusalem. If there is to be a genuine peace, a way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states.
An earlier EU draft specifically stated that the Palestinian capital should be in East Jerusalem, but intense Israeli lobbying, including and especially among the new EU members from Eastern Europe, resulted in striking that reference in the final version.
On the same day, December 8, 2009, the State Department issued its own statement:
The U.S. position on Jerusalem is clear and remains unchanged: that Jerusalem and all other permanent status issues must be resolved by the two parties themselves. It has been official U.S. policy for many years that the future status of Jerusalem is a permanent status issue...
Why did the State Department feel compelled to issue such a statement? One can only conclude that the U.S. Government wanted to distance itself from the EU position.
Usually, the American phrase that Israeli-Palestinian issues "must be settled by the parties themselves" is in effect a code word for allowing the Israelis to perpetuate the status quo, given the fact that the Israelis are by far the stronger party. At least the U.S. statement declared that Jerusalem remains an outstanding issue, and this is important. It seems clear, however, that the U.S., while openly favoring a "two-state" solution, cannot bring itself to advocate openly a "two-capitals" solution as well.

Conclusion

In sum, the underlying strategic imperative for a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is twofold: there must be a two-state solution; and for a two-state solution to be realized, there must be a two-capitals solution. The Palestinians, and the Arab States behind them, will never accept a solution in which East Jerusalem does not become the capital of a Palestinian state. If this is ruled out, then a two-state solution is not achievable. The alternative, a one-state solution, is utterly unacceptable to the Palestinians, as it negates their dream of an independent Palestinian state. The one-state solution is also not in Israel's interest, as it translates out to an eventual Arab majority in the Israeli state. Then the choice becomes equal rights or apartheid, neither of which is desirable: the former is not in Israeli interests; the latter is not in accord with Jewish values.
Except Jerusalem, the other issues would seem to be within reach of a solution. The right of return of Palestinians to their former homes in Israel is a non-starter: do we expect the Germans to reoccupy East Prussia or the Mexicans California? Similarly, the repatriation of Israeli settlers in the West Bank, outside those in the large settlement blocks close to the Green Line, which would go to Israel under the land-swap arrangements, should be able to be accomplished with compensations.
Above all, it is a question of political will, and in Israel. As Tzipi Livni, the former Labor Foreign Minister has said, "We lose if we carry on like this."
Arriving at what is termed a Permanent Status Agreement should be a major strategic objective of the world's powers - American, European, Asian and Latin American. Such an agreement, though it would not eliminate, would sharply weaken the motivation of Arab and Muslim youth to join jihadist movements. If there were to be a Permanent Status Agreement, the United States would be recognized generally throughout the world as the only power that could have brought it about. Further, Arab and Muslim opinion would come to a more nuanced view of what has been American policy toward the Muslim world and Muslims.
If, on the other hand, and what a number of observers have claimed, Israel's underlying strategic intention is to maintain control over all of the West Bank and is playing for time in order to achieve such an aim, then the goal that has existed for so long in the international community, namely that of the two-state solution, will be buried...while the threat of Islamist terrorism will only increase. In the meantime, the international legitimacy that Israel so clearly seeks will remain, as before, unattainable. The international community cannot accept what is considered an illegal occupation: Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (August 12, 1949), relative to the protection of civilians in time of war, contains the following provision: "The occupying power will not be able to proceed to deportation, or to transfer its own population into the territories occupied by it." Q.E.D.

Editor's Note: Dr. Charles Cogan was the chief of the Near East South Asia Division in the Directorate of Operations of the CIA from August 1979 to August 1984. From September 1984 until July 1989 he was CIA Chief in Paris. He is currently an Associate at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School.

November 10, 2010