Jerusalem has a turbulent history. It was oft the focal point of Abrahamic religious tension, bickering and violence throughout the last millennium, a regrettable trait that has continued to the modern day. However whilst in the past control of Jerusalem revolved (for the most part) around competing religiously motivated factions, the present sees the city being fought over by two broad nationalist ideologies as well. The bifurcation of hostility into both religious and nationalist has posed, and continues to pose, a distinct threat to regional stability given the capricious nature of the Middle East, ensuring that the solution of such a contentious issue will require great skill and diplomatic tact.
The title dictates that this paper should consider whether Jerusalem is the main stumbling block for peace. However, whilst this title prompts for an outline and comparison of the various other issues for peace in the question of Israel/Palestine, this paper will take a slightly different approach. In effect I will be writing with the title “Jerusalem: a stumbling block for peace”. In doing so the lens of the paper is focused on Jerusalem and an analysis of what makes the city an issue. I will refer to those other barriers to an agreement that exist – notably settlements and refugees – but only to disprove that they are the main issue. As such, this paper will introduce the recent history of the city through the prism of United Nations Resolutions before arguing the importance of the city and the options available in concluding a settlement. Having discussed intra-national issues and demonstrated why Jerusalem retains the prized position in intrastate issues, the paper will conclude that it is one of many pieces that must fit the puzzle before we shall see an all-embracing settlement strong enough to last the test of time. Jerusalem is a stumbling block for peace, not the main stumbling block for peace.
Before proceeding it is necessary to define ‘peace’ in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Oxford Dictionary provides two possible understandings of the word: either, ‘freedom from disturbance; tranquility’; or, ‘a state or period in which there is no war or a war has ended’. Neither of these attempts are ideal for our purposes. If there were to be a negotiated settlement between Israel and a newly formed state of Palestine this would undoubtedly not free either country from disturbance given the diversity of ideological thought within the two distinct nationalist bodies – a topic to be covered presently. Thus a solution to the Jerusalem issue would not provide peace by the first definition of the word as in all probability it would not bring about tranquility. The second is inadmissible in this context given that there is no war in Israel or her occupied territories at present therefore this definition would provide that there is already peace – the question clearly suggests otherwise. Thus the effective title will change once more: “Jerusalem: a stumbling block for a settlement”. A settlement in this context meaning the enactment of a two-state solution.
The Resolutions: Jerusalem From 181
UN Resolution 181 (29th November 1947) dictated the terms under which the British Mandate of Palestine would come to an end, which it duly did on the 14th May 1948 prompting the first Arab-Israeli war. Resolution 181 called for independent Arab and Jewish States with Jerusalem a corpus separatum under the control of a special international regime. This was not to be, for during the Arab-Israeli war Israel occupied the area to the west of Jerusalem, Transjordan the area east (including the Old City and consequently the majority of religious sites) with a slither of no man’s land separating the belligerent forces. The subsequent truce between the two nations was signed on the 3rd April 1949 on the island of Rhodes, Greece, cementing Jordanian hold over the Old City and thus limiting access to holy sites for Israelis.
UN Resolution 303 (9th December 1949) reaffirmed Jerusalem as a corpus separatum under neither Arab nor Jewish control. Given that there is no principle in legal theory that repudiates a United Nations resolution in the case of its violation, under international law Jerusalem remains a corpus separatum – ‘the only “status” or “legal status” or “specific status” which Jerusalem possesses is that laid down in resolution 181′. Resolution 303 was passed by the General Assembly despite Ben Gurion’s attempts to soothe international fears: in a statement to the Knesset on the 5th December he upheld that Israel would ‘guarantee freedom of religion and conscience, of language, education and culture. It will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions. It will be loyal to the principles of the United Nations Charter’. He continued, ‘we cannot imagine, however, that the U.N. would attempt to sever Jerusalem from the State of Israel or harm Israel’s sovereignty in its eternal capital’ (emphasis added). The 13th December 1949 saw the Israeli Prime Minister emphatically reiterate this point: ‘for the State of Israel there has always been and always will be one capital only – Jerusalem the Eternal’. The meaning, potency and relevance of this quote is clear: in the Israeli eye Jerusalem is the only Israeli capital.
Following Jordanian involvement in the Six Day War of June 1967 Israel occupied the West Bank, effectively annexing Jerusalem in the process. The government worked to unite east and west of the city, in doing so attempting to ensure that Yerushalayim would never see division reoccur: Jerusalem was to be Israel’s ‘eternal capital’. The U.N. General Assembly responded with a statement calling for Israel to ‘rescind all measures already taken and to desist forthwith from taking any action which would alter the status of Jerusalem’. The United States similarly publicly denounced the Jewish-majority state, its representative to the United Nations announcing that his ‘government regrets and deplores this pattern of activity’ and that Israel is bound to act under the provisions of international law that would ‘bind any occupier’ (a reference to the illegality of obtaining territory through war). However Israel was unresponsive, she possessed her capital and she fully intended to keep it. The formal annexation was passed by the Knesset on July 30th 1980 under Israel’s Basic Law which dictated that ‘Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel’. The move was castigated by both the Security Council and the Conference of Islamic States shortly after, the general consensus of world opinion being that the move ‘created a highly explosive situation which [would] threaten world peace and security’.
The Importance of Jerusalem
Al-Quds, Yerushalayim, Jerusalem: three names for three severed religions that each hold sites within the city’s precincts as sacred. This is further complicated not only by mutual veneration for certain people and places, but by the difficulties presented by certain areas housing multiple holy sites – Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif being a case in point. Members of each doctrine have a decided interest in the city owing to its spiritual and theological values; indeed it has been argued that Resolution 181 endowed ‘Jerusalem with an inter-national legal status compatible with its historical character and religious significance to the world’. Thus, point one, the details of a settlement of Jerusalem are intrinsically an international affair.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict often has the effect of driving interested parties to the extremities of the opinion continuum, particularly the case with regard to the Muslim populations of the Middle East. Primarily the animosity felt towards Israel is a result of the numerous defeats of Arab forces at the hands of the Israeli Defence Force, but similarly due to the belief that the Israeli political system imitates an herrenvolk democracy – an issue owing to Palestinian solidarity. To complicate matters further, Muslims, especially those of Middle Eastern states, are far more likely to view their religion as an integral, requisite part of their life. Given that Israel is surrounded by Muslim states whose populations have a heightened sense of faith, and given their antipathy towards the Jewish-majority state, it is clear that Middle Eastern leaders have a distinct political interest in Jerusalem. Should a settlement be perceived as denigrating to the ummah such leaders stand to lose a significant amount of prestige – there is no recourse for them to take in such a situation owing to Israel’s military might and its political support from the United States. Thus Jerusalem is unavoidably a regional affair.
Further scrutinization of the city’s importance leads us to ponder over its standing within the two broad nationalist movements. We have seen that Ben Gurion regarded Jerusalem as Israel’s ‘eternal capital’, that for Israelis it has been and will always be their cardinal city. And this is a vision shared by the Palestinians, for they regard the conurbation as the beating heart of a future Palestinian state politically, economically, culturally and spiritually. Both peoples are equally as stubborn when considering the concessions needed for the stalemate to dissolve due to the importance they attach to the result of a settlement on the city. Thus, thirdly, Jerusalem is a national affair.
The final piece in this puzzle concerns those that reside in the holy city as the potential for a re-division of the city will affect both Arab and Jewish Jerusalemites. It could be argued that they represent a microcosm of all of the above; they possess concern for their respective religious sites, they are aware of the impact of a political fallout from a one-sided resolution of the issue, but more so they are in the economic firing line should things turn sour. There are various studies considering the impact of a re-division of the city; Michael Dumper’s examination focuses on the effect of a split on service and utility provisions. He posits that whilst such a split is not technically impeded, it would require significant investment in East Jerusalem and a cordial relationship between the two sides at least until the Palestinians are able to support themselves unaided. Thus, to conclude this section, the issues inflicting on a settlement on the city are fourfold: international, regional, national and local.
The purpose of this section is to demonstrate the divisions within each nationalist body with regard to the solution of the broader conflict by focusing on the Haredim – ultra-orthodox Jews – and Hamas. It is worthy of mention as whilst Jerusalem is inescapably a predominant issue in an intrastate settlement, certain developments must occur within each national body before such a settlement is viable.
In 2002 Shlomo Hasson considered the power struggle between secular and ultra-orthodox Israelis in Jerusalem’s municipal elections of 1993 and 1998. He concluded that a ‘local democratic deficit’ was born, that whilst the elections fulfilled democratic criteria the resultant councils that they formed failed ‘to adequately fulfill the needs of non-Haredi groups’. The Haredim are similarly becoming increasingly influential on a national scale, aided by the use of an electoral system based on proportional representation. The low qualifying threshold of 2% ensures that a wide variety of parties win seats at government, significantly reducing the prospect of a single party government and therefore precipitating the formation of a fragile coalition – Israel is in a perpetual state of hung parliament. Given the diversity of opinion within each coalition they are prone to premature break-ups, especially over vital domestic issues such as the future of Jerusalem. More important is the prominence that such a political system gives to marginalized parties: they become the keystone of the alliance and therefore possess considerably more power than the electorate voted to bestow upon them.
Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination provides a clear example of the conflicting opinion within Israel over concessions awarded to Palestine. It also demonstrates the need for the government to counter the ‘ideo-theological cleavages’ in Israeli society in anticipation of a settlement to the conflict. Clive Jones asserts that ‘religious-based opposition to the Oslo Accords… among Haredi… increased markedly’ following the election of Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996, in contrast to their previous anti-Zionist stance. He emphasizes that if these pockets of Israeli society are to be satisfied there must be two developments. Firstly the religious right must be brought on-board the settlement bandwagon through the use of ‘religious discourse condoning territorial compromise’, and secondly, to avert the ‘atavistic monopoly over hermeneutical interpretation exercised by religious nationalists towards the peace process’, the centre-left must partake in discourse relating to the ‘ideo-theological cleavages’. In short, there must be greater effort placed on solidifying support for a settlement among the differing political and religious groups. Without such a development it is highly improbable that a religious-right influenced Knesset will make the necessary overtures.
Of course it is not just the Israelis who suffer from a fragmented communal psyche: the partition among Palestinians is equally as pronounced. There are arguably only two groups that have the potential to derail a settlement program: Hamas and the al-Aqsa Brigades. Given the latter’s affiliation with Fatah, it is likely that it will be brought to heel as and when needed – as has happened in the past – and thus I shall focus solely on the former.
Hamas is representative of the minority of Palestinians that align with the use of violence as the sole path to the realization of a Palestinian state. This belief is born out of two notions. Firstly, given Israeli emphasis on security, the continued use of violence affords the Palestinian cause a bargaining chip. Secondly, it firmly considers Israel’s motivation to partake in a settlement as an attempt to consolidate territory by ulterior means, a viewpoint that has garnered support among certain regiments of the pro-Palestine academic lobby. The organization has on numerous occasions stated that no settlement process can be initiated until Israel ‘first withdraws to the borders of 1967; dismantles all settlements; removes all soldiers from Gaza and the West Bank; [and] repudiates its illegal annexation of Jerusalem’. Whilst this distinctly gives the impression that there is no hope for optimism – Israel would never agree to such preconditions – it is notable that Hamas has suggested that a two-state solution ‘may be the only realistic way forward’. Consequently there are grounds for hope that the militant body may be brought into the fold of a settlement, though such a development is only feasible should Israel commit to diplomacy with the radicals, an action which will only occur following Israeli consolidation among its ‘ideo-theological cleavages’.
Temporarily disregarding the divisions within each body, we should consider the different options for a solution of the issue at hand. Chad Emmett proposes that a system of shared sovereignty in Jerusalem – based on Suri Nusseibah’s ‘scattered sovereignty’ – is the only ‘reasonable solution’ to the issue, that the city has long been occupied by different faiths and peoples who have, for the most part, been able to coexist peacefully. He proceeds to give examples of such communal coexistence – both in the past and the present – attempting to demonstrate that the status quo can be duplicated and adapted to fit the modern ethno-religious conflict. The settlement of a shared city presents numerous problems and whilst this paper concurs with his assertion that it is the most realistic outcome given the situation that has presented itself, it should be noted that it is not the only recourse available.
We have seen that under international law Jerusalem was to be established as a corpus separatum, a body separated from both Israel and a Palestinian state and under the administrative control of the United Nations. One option would be to further this line of thought. Instead of placing the city under the control of an international consortium, perhaps gather elected politicians from Arab and Jewish communities, as well as representatives from each religion that has an interest in the city, to govern in a Jerusalem Council. This option would entrust power to numerous communities thus safeguarding the sacredness of Jerusalem to each, in doing so preventing any one community from acquiring a strangle-hold on the city. As a consequence of multiple sites being holy to more than one doctrine and the resulting intransigence of both Palestinians and Israelis that these sites be under their own respective sovereignty, such a proposal would, unfortunately, be unlikely to be realised.
Another option would be for the city to remain undivided under Israeli authority. Clearly this would appease the Jewish-majority nation given their fear that should Israel concede sovereignty it would tempt a return to the physical division of the 1948 to 1967 period. Indeed Emmett argues that this would, ‘from the standpoint of the most efficient governance and the spatial integrity of the city’, represent the optimum arrangement. However thanks to Israeli policies of land appropriation, institutional separation and demographic alteration in order to Judaize Jerusalem – processes justified by the fear of a physical division of Jerusalem – the resultant distrust felt by Palestinians towards Israel prohibits such a recourse from being enacted. A settlement that provides for Israeli control over the city would never be accepted by any Palestinian diplomatic delegation. Thus, in summation, there are three general solutions: Jerusalem as a modified corpus separatum; as a united Israeli city; and most feasibly as a shared city with dual ownership.
The Issues of Dual Ownership
There are those who argue that as Jerusalem represents the most divisive matter it should be the first to be considered in any negotiations. The alternative proffered is that as Jerusalem is such a thorny issue it should be relegated to the bottom of the list to ensure that negotiations manifest themselves. The second of these judgements was deemed to be the more appropriate given the need to attain some form of progress and thus the Oslo Agreement of 13th September 1993 excluded the topic. Instead the accord affirmed that permanent status negotiations were to commence as soon as possible, such negotiations to cover the remaining issues (including Jerusalem, refugees and settlements). It would be unwise to disregard the importance of this affirmation, for the Declaration of Principles was the first document that specifically avowed that Jerusalem would be negotiated.
Following the failure of the Declaration of Principles to bring about any meaningful permanent status negotiations – continued violence brought about the election of Netanyahu in 1996 and a subsequent break down in relations – a further round of talks began in July 2000. The 2000 Camp David Summit, to become known as the ‘Jerusalem Summit’, was attended by Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak under the auspices of President Clinton. It brought two watersheds: not only was it the first time Israel had officially negotiated over the sovereignty of Jerusalem but it marked the first time that an Israeli Prime Minister officially considered the political split of the city, thus certifying Israeli and American recognition of Palestinian political interests in Jerusalem. When one considers the lengths at which successive Israeli governments sought to ensure that Jerusalem would remain Israel’s sole capital one cannot fail to comprehend the magnitude of such an event – especially given Barak’s previous dictum dissenting to divide the holy city.
There are differing accounts as to why the summit concluded inconclusively – even from within the same delegations – however it is generally accepted that Arafat rejected Barak’s ‘generous offer’ due to its suggestions on Jerusalem. The two sides had agreed on Palestinian sovereignty over the Old City’s Muslim and Christian Quarters as well as control over Jerusalem’s outer Arab districts, and Israeli sovereignty over the Jewish and Armenian Quarters, the Wailing Wall and Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem. The stumbling block: Temple Mount. Barak offered Arafat custody of the site but refused to concede sovereignty, a proposition that Arafat refused to consider, thus a settlement remained elusive. President Clinton refrained from losing sight of the objective, initiating a new round of talks in December 2000 which again resulted in failure – Arafat was offered sovereignty over the Haram al-Sharif at the expense of the right of return. Such a dismissal would appear to lend credence to the argument that the right of return assumes the primary negotiating aim of the Palestinian leadership, which leads us to a comparative consideration of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem: A Comparative Consideration
This paper considers there to be three chief intrastate hurdles to be clambered over before we shall see a two-state solution enacted: Jerusalem, refugees and borders/settlements. As discussed in the introduction to this paper, the inclusion of this chapter is solely to argue that Jerusalem is the principle of the three.
The preceding chapter suggests that the Palestinian leadership viewed the Palestinian refugees’ right of return as paramount in any settlement. Whilst this may have been the case under Arafat’s hegemony, it is certainly not the case now. January of last year saw The Guardian and al Jazeera release reams of Palestinian documents pertaining to talks with Israel and the United States over the path to a conclusion of the conflict. Amongst these documents were references to the right of return as a ‘bargaining chip’ by Dr. Saeb Erekat, who later confirmed to the United States Middle East Envoy George Mitchell that ‘on refugees, the deal is there’. The documents provide further details of the settlement anticipated: Erekat is on record as commenting that, ‘Olmert [former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert] accepted 1,000 refugees annually for the next 10 years’. Furthermore Mahmoud Abbas, current President of the Palestinian National Authority, is recognized as having acknowledged the illogicality of endeavoring to force the return of refugees to Israel proper given the Jewish-majority state’s demographic concerns.
These papers clearly reveal that for the Palestinian hierarchy the right of return is of relatively minor concern. This is not so clear-cut among the population of the Occupied Territories. Appendix 1 reveals that a majority – 53% – of Palestinians are disinclined to agree to a deal whereby Israel would be required to absorb a similar amount of refugees as third countries would. There are two points to elucidate from these figures. Firstly that this majority has fallen by 4% over the last year, purporting to unveil that Palestinian attitudes are becoming more susceptible to the idea, and secondly, the figures detail a greater Palestinian emphasis on attaining sovereignty over Jerusalem – a difference of 6%. Thus we can deduce that from both the perspective of the leadership and the population, the issue of Jerusalem takes precedence.
Of course I have neglected to mention the final status of borders. This is something of a non-issue comparatively to Jerusalem, for not only has the final status of a Palestinian border been agreed upon numerous times (thus we can deduce that both the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships are content), but, as shown in Appendix 1, a majority of Israeli and Palestinian populations agree with the formation of a Palestinian state along 1967 borders with a 3% land-swap. Thus neither borders or the right of return are of comparatively greater significance to either the Palestinian leadership or the Palestinian population.
With its plethora of doctrinal artefacts and holy sites, Israelis and Palestinians view Jerusalem as paramount to the eminence of their respective national identities. The lack of altruism displayed by both sides of this dispute ensures that in order to bring about its resolution a great amount of tact and diplomatic finesse will be required, especially when factoring in the city’s international and regional relevance.
The three distinct options for an agreement over the future state of Jerusalem converge to one when the practicalities of the situation are acknowledged; it is apparent that Palestinians will not accept Israeli sovereignty over the city, and unlikely that either of the two factions would succumb to a modified corupus separatum. Therefore Barak’s aforementioned offer to Arafat will form the basis of the eventual settlement. However, in order for said settlement to have a chance of success and for the curtain to finally fall on this conflict – resembling as it does something of a Shakespearean tragedy – each protagonist must erode their intra-national divisions in anticipation of the realization of an intrastate settlement. Thus, whilst Jerusalem is the predominant intrastate hurdle, before either side prepares to leap they must first ensure that they are capable of landing: the internal issues must be resolved before the attempt to realise the external. A settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has failed to arouse significant domestic support will ultimately flounder. As such, Jerusalem is a stumbling block for a settlement but it is not the main stumbling block.
1 Oxford Dictionary (2012)
2 I have discounted the continuing war – or rather the lack of a peace agreement – with Saudi Arabia, Syria etc. given that the question implicitly insinuates peace with the Occupied Territories.
3 See Cattan (1981), pp. 7-8 for a consideration of the corpus separatum
4 Cattan (1981), p. 9
5 State of Israel (2003)
8 Albin (2005), p. 344
9 United Nations General Assembly, A/RES/2253 (ES-V), 4 July 1967
10 US Permanent Representative to the U.N. Charles Yost, before United Nations Security Council, 1 July 1969
11 Israel’s Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel, 30 July 1980
12 Cattan (1981), p. 4
13 Emmet (1997), p. 19
14 Cattan (1981), p. 8
15 Ipsos Mori (2011)
16 Albin (2005), p. 345
17 Dumper (1993), pp. 93-94
18 Albin (2005), p. 344
19 See Barak (2005) for an affirmation that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resembles an intrastate conflict as supposed to interstate or international.
20 Hasson (2002), p. 9
21 Rowley & Webb (2007), p. 9
22 Jones (1999), p. 10
23 Ibid., p. 10-11
24 Rowley & Webb (2007), p. 10
25 Gunning (2004), p. 233
26 Ibid., p. 243
27 Ibid., p. 243
28 See Harris (2001), p. 3513
29 Al-Zahar (2008), p. 165
30 Gunning (2004), p. 241
31 Emmet (1997), p. 17
32 Ibid., p. 16
33 Emmet (1997), p. 16
34 Albin (2005), p. 345
35 Emmet (1997), p. 17
36 Abowd (2004), p. 6; Albin (2005), p. 346
37 Emmet (1997), p. 16
38 Koshy (1995), p. 1289
39 Article V, Olso Agreement, 13 September 1993
40 Albin (2005), p. 346
41 Kydd & Walter (2002), p. 263
42 Albin (2005), p. 348
43 Ibid., p. 346
44 Abowd (2004), p. 9
45 See Peace Monitor (2001), pp. 127 for a consideration of the ‘layered sovereignty’ proposal put before Arafat. Whilst the PA feared for the safety of the Haram should Israel proceed to excavate underneath it, the foremost worry was the political retribution that would occur should Arafat publicly announce the dissolution of the Palestinian right of return.
46 The Guardian (2011), ‘Palestinians agreed only 10,000 refugees could return to Israel’
47 The Guardian (2011), The Palestine Papers: ‘Clinton told us to be quiet’
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|December, 2011||December, 2010|
|Palestinians||40% support, 59% oppose||36% for, 63% against|
|Israelis||38% support, 60% oppose||38% for, 58% against|
|December, 2011||December, 2010|
|Palestinians||45% support, 53% oppose||41% for, 57% against|
|Israelis||42% support, 51% oppose||36% for, 52% against|
|December, 2011||December, 2010|
|Palestinians||63% support, 36% oppose||49% for, 50% against|
|Israelis||51% support, 44% oppose||49% for, 43% against|