Tag Archives: Jerusalem

Wither Zionism? Israel’s ‘Rightward Shift’

Zionism is, and always has been, a rational product of liberal nationalist ideals. Though diaspora Jews for thousands of years mouthed prayers of divine redemption and ‘return’ to Jerusalem, it was the European enlightenment and the rise of egalitarian and socialist currents that inspired ideological young Jewish pioneers to ‘reclaim’ what is today the State of Israel.

The reality today is markedly different, as Israel’s General Elections loom on the 22nd of January. The incumbent right-wing administration is almost certain to return to power, with Benjamin Netanyahu set to become Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister.

Frequently, this phenomenon is labelled Israel’s ‘rightward shift’; pundits often paint long-term reductionist portraits of the dwindling electoral fortunes of Israel’s left-of-centre parties.

The truth is more nuanced: Israel’s Jewish voters are not inherently right-wing nor overwhelmingly harbour annexationist desires vis-à-vis the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The left-wing hegemony over Israel’s electoral politics was total for the first three decades of the young state’s life. In both 1993 and 1999, Israeli voters realised that a political, not military solution, was exigent and necessary to end spiralling violence.

In 2008, the last time Israelis went to the polls, the centre-left Kadima Party emerged as the largest political force in the Knesset, yet were outmanoeuvred by the savvy Netanyahu and sent packing to the opposition.

Today, Israel’s liberal-left is in disarray, with a myriad of parties jockeying for the centre ground, constrained and divided by egoism and Prime Ministerial ambitions, handing an increasingly radical right the keys to the Prime Minister’s Office.

This represents an incremental threat to the Zionist project. The only viable resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict remains a two-state solution that will preserve Israel’s Jewish essence whilst simultaneously avoiding the creation of an apartheid system that annexation, with its demographic realities, would necessitate. This has consistently been the message of Israel’s Zionist left.

Despite Netanyahu’s endorsement of Palestinian statehood in 2009, senior lawmakers from the Prime Minister’s Likud Party have recently openly declared the party hostile to the two-state solution.

Based on the record of the outgoing administration, it is easy to believe their claims. The longer left-wing infighting continues, the further peaceful coexistence within a Zionist framework slips away. Israel’s left is down, but not out: divided, squabbling and disappointing, but retaining a monopoly over the only feasible, Zionist solution to a festering, existential conflict.


Photo credit: IsraelinUSA

Operation Cloud Pillar: Deterrence, Not Ballots

The road to Operation Cloud Pillar was paved not by the ballot box, but by strategic failures of the Israeli government. Rather than present a clever political manipulation of patriotic fervour that is inherent in high-stakes warfare, Netanyahu’s dereliction of deterrence may actually cost him dearly in January’s elections.


Benjamin Netanyahu


Benjamin Netanyahu is something of an enigma. Though every opinion poll published both before and after national elections were called augured his re-election as Israel’s Prime Minister, Netanyahu (or ‘Bibi’- his Israeli moniker), took the political gamble of a lifetime. Following a deluge of rockets on Israel’s southern cities from the Gaza Strip and the breakdown of the Middle-East’s worst kept secret- a truce between Hamas and Israel- Bibi ordered the assassination of Ahmad al-Jabari, the head of Hamas’ military wing.

Naturally, things have since gone from bad to worse. Whilst norms and ‘red lines’ are being re-written daily, perhaps the greatest misconception regarding the conflict is its origins. Just why did Israel’s Prime Minister order the attack?

Because this is the Middle-East, conspiracy theories abound. The current cynic’s claim is that, with elections on the horizon, Bibi sought to monopolize public debate, engendering a patriotic surge and paving the way for his re-election. Indeed, the Israeli Labor’s party prioritisation of a socio-economic agenda has all but disappeared from national discourse. It has also been argued on this website that international factors, such as Palestine’s bid for statehood at the United Nations, precipitated the need for drastic Israeli action.

The problem with this analysis is that it is myopic, favouring baseless speculation over reality. It is true that many Israeli offensives have been closely followed by elections: from Operation Grapes of Wrath in 1996 to the last tit-for-tat offensive in late 2008- Operation Cast Lead- and many more, bombs usually pre-empt ballots.

However, starting a war before an election has frequently backfired, literally blowing up in the face of the incumbent government. Following Cast Lead, the ruling Kadima Party lost power, whilst in 1996 then-Prime Minister Shimon Peres undid his rosy showing in the opinion polls by ordering the bombing of Lebanon.

These operations have something else in common: the subsequent elections were both won by then-leader of the opposition, Benjamin Netanyahu. Bibi, for all his many faults is a political mastermind, with scant desire to fall into the traps of his predecessors.

Rocket fire from the Gaza Strip declined sharply after the previous government launched Operation Cast Lead, which was a classic manifestation of Israeli deterrence policy. Strategically, the goal of deterrence is conflict management, rather than resolution; by inferring unacceptable costs on the behaviour of a belligerent, a state successfully projects a deterrence equation, limiting the strategic toolbox of the enemy. In order to ensure that the threat is real, states have to ‘make good’ their promises of unpalatable response; deterrence constantly needs ‘topping up’ if the opposing actor errs into the arena of unacceptable norms.

From its inception, Israel’s response to non-state terrorism based in nearby states has been to simply ignore the terror group and punish the state, forcing it to reign in the hostile actors. For this reason, I’m constantly bemused by so-called ‘Israel advocates’ claiming Israeli responses to terrorist acts are not ‘disproportionate’, because disproportionate response is the foundation of Israeli deterrence equations. The goal is not to ‘bomb your way to peace’, but to coerce nearby states and state-like entities into compliance, so a relative ‘quiet’ takes hold. In layman’s terms, Israel’s message is: ‘If you hurt me, I will hurt you ten times harder, so don’t hurt me’.

Whilst those of us on the left constantly lambast his administration for its right-wing reactionary stances, Netanyahu’s nationalist bombast obscures the truth: Bibi’s administration has rejected Israeli disproportionate deterrence policy. After five Israeli tourists were killed by a suspected Hezbollah bomber in Burgas, Bulgaria, I argued that Israel must learn that ‘excessive restraint begets further bloodshed’. Netanyahu agreed, promising that ‘Israel will respond forcefully to Iranian terror’. However, his bark was bigger than his bite: no tangible Israel response was forthcoming.

The most obvious manifestation of this ‘speak big, do nothing’ approach was on Israel’s southern borders. Under Netanyahu, when rockets were launched from Gaza, the Israeli Air Force targeted the rocket crews, not the governmental apparatus of Hamas. Rather than opt for massive retaliation, forcing Hamas to reign in the rocket crews, Netanyahu’s preference was for dialogue and negotiations, leading to several rounds of ‘truces’ which brought relative quiet.

However, Bibi’s restraint gamble unravelled rapidly. The number of rockets fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip increased substantially in recent weeks, suggesting that Hamas was either unwilling or unable to constrain smaller, more radical fellow travellers. Netanyahu was dragged back down the path of deterrence and disproportionate response, kicking and screaming all the way in the face of Israeli public uproar over perceived government inaction. Here lie the origins of Israel’s latest game-changing assault: ‘Operation Cloud Pillar’.

Four days into the operation, Netanyahu retains a preference for limited ‘surgical’ strikes over the strategic employment of disproportionate force. In the first four hours of Cast Lead, over 100 targets including police stations and bureaucratic offices were hit in Israel’s opening salvo, killing approximately 140 Palestinians. By contrast, the first four days of Cloud Pillar has witnessed around twenty Palestinian deaths.

However, every rocket erodes the legitimacy of surgical restraint. Hamas proved that they too are capable of game-changing tactics: for the first time since 1991, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (where I am fortunate/unfortunate enough to live) were struck by rocket attacks. At the time of writing, the Israeli Defence Forces were subsequently granted permission to call up 75,000 reserve troops and close off the roads surrounding the Gaza Strip.

Thus, the road to Operation Cloud Pillar was paved not by the ballot box, but by strategic failures of the Israeli government, which lead to public uproar. Rather than present a clever political manipulation of patriotic fervour that is inherent in high-stakes warfare, Bibi’s dereliction of deterrence may actually cost him dearly in January’s elections. For those of us on the left, we are once again faced with the stark reality of a region where excessive force delivers quiet, whilst restraint begets clumsy, last-minute regressions to well-trodden strategic norms, of which Operation Cloud Pillar is increasingly looking like another example.


Photo Credit: Abode of Chaos

Recognizing A Palestinian State Would Be Disastrous

A hoorah enthusiasm to accept Palestinian statehood at the United Nations no matter what – and with no regard for Israel’s say in the matter – would be catastrophic. We must be patient.


A view of Jerusalem


This is a response to  ‘Blocking Palestine: America’s Big Mistake


Many groups have seen hope for a solution to the Middle East conflict in the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN, the thinking being that international pressure will exert  pressure on Israel. Following this logic, American opposition to the move is regarded as a diplomatic mistake given a growing consent among the UN member states for the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) request for statehood. Americans, the argument goes, are opposed to it out of concerns that the Palestinian state could then file a lawsuit at the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Israel for illegal occupation of its territories. This stance takes root in its loyalty to a close ally despite the fact that such policy goes against its principles and values and undermines its influence across the Arab World. American behavior with regards to the PA is even more perplexing when one takes a look at its efforts to support democratic changes in North Africa.

I would like to counter that argument. Accepting a Palestinian bid for statehood would be a dangerous development, not only for the US and Israel, but first and foremost for Palestinians and the wider region. Americans oppose Palestinian statehood out of security concerns rather than a morally dubious attachment to its ally. At this moment in history Palestine is by no means ready to become a state, and the blatant international disregard for the Israeli input in the matter could have dire consequences, including an all-out conflict across the region.

The first and most important risk originates in the fact that the PA does not exercise full control over its territories, even in Zone A, and cannot guarantee the rule of law over all of its lands and stability at its borders – the Gaza Strip and Hamas, for example. Let’s imagine the PA finally gets the statehood it wanted – how is it supposed to oust Hamas from Gaza and reinstate itself as the ruling power? What do Abbas’s assertions on peaceful cooperation with Israel mean if once Palestine becomes independent Hamas will continue to dictate its own policies, fire missiles at Israel and recruit Bedouins to attack from Sinai? Palestine can only become a state if it has all the features of a state – territory and population are not enough.

Let us imagine the newly independent Palestine files a lawsuit against Israel at the ICC, the ICC finds Israel guilty and demands its withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. Then what? No state in history will voluntarily abandon strategic positions without being fully confident that its withdrawal will not be instantaneously used against it. Palestinian state apparatus and security forces are too weak to deal with rioting and protests, let alone successfully fight domestic terrorist groups. Can Abbas really guarantee that no missiles will be launched on Ben Gurion Airport from the West Bank hills? That he will make sure nobody smuggles firearms from Jordan into Ramallah? That Hezbollah operatives would not enter Palestine to train and recruit new terrorists?

The risk is just too big to take, especially now with sectarian conflicts raging all over the region. The PA does not wield enough power – state institutions are weak and security forces are ill-trained and corrupt. Israel contains the terrorist threat coming from the Occupied Territories at the disgraceful costs of humanitarian abuse and violence, but its tactics and strategy are successful. Can Israelis gamble put their safety and security in the hands of weak and semi-failed institutions out of a moral imperative? It would be against common sense to claim they should.

The first condition for the PA is to exercise the full rule of law, both in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, when it will be able to contain terrorism on its own territory before it hits Israel. Secondly, Israel cannot be forced into an internationally orchestrated Palestinian statehood. Israelis would not yield to such pressure, whereas encouraged Palestinians would interpret such move as a green light for staging a Third Intifada. The consequences would be more bloodshed, more violence and a greater Israeli military presence in the Occupied Territories. Such a move would delay any chance for a comprehensive solution for another couple of decades.

The peace process must be negotiated with the involvement of the great powers. The counter-argument is irrelevant as all the parameters for a peace solution have been set and defined as far back as Taba Summit in 2001. The problem lies in the lack of good will between the two sides; if the solution was mutually desired, Palestine could become an independent state over one night. Any international solution without the Israelis on board would deteriorate the situation, enhance the risk of violence, and fuel hawkish moods both in Israel and in Palestine.

Lastly, statehood would be disastrous for the PLO and its legitimacy. If the PLO could not gain any substantial improvement in the Palestinian situation following recognition, Palestinian society would question the PA’s ability to deliver, thus further undermining its already weak support. It is not hard to imagine a wave of social protests bolstering radicals’ support base, who could build their popularity on harsh critique of the PLO’s inertia and passiveness, calling for the people to forcefully take what has been promised by the UN itself. If another intifada were to break out, the PLO would have no chance of controlling the uprising, nor would it be able to compete with the militant and populist Hamas in rallying the support of the society to lead the fight. If Arafat could not control the Second Intifada, it is beyond the realms of possibility that someone as uncharismatic as Abbas will do better.

I do not intend to defend Israeli policies; I am no fan of Bibi and his politics. But a hoorah enthusiasm to accept Palestinian statehood at the UN no matter what – and with no regard for Israel’s say in the matter – would be catastrophic. We must be patient and appreciate the current situation, as irrespective of what we think, Israeli-Palestinian relations, both on official and social levels, haven’t been as peaceful as they are now for some time.


Photo credit: Adam Biggs / theriskyshift.com

Does Mitt Romney Want A Third World War?

What is needed, and what Mitt Romney lacks, is pragmatism and the ability to negotiate: to realise that peace in the Middle-East is the most pressing problem in global affairs, one in which warfare should never be endorsed, and that a solution is only possible if the USA is not seen as such an unyielding ally of Israel.


Mitt Romney in Israel, Middle East


Whilst it may be true that the result of the forthcoming US presidential election is determined more by the realms of domestic rather than foreign policy, the comments made by Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, during his visit to Israel prove one thing: the future of Middle Eastern (and world) peace lies very much in the hands of the citizens of the United States of America and their ability to elect the correct President.

In what can only be seen as an attempt to win the Jewish American vote, if not outright Zionism, Romney offended every Arab and every Middle Eastern peace activist by ignorantly suggesting that, firstly, the economic disparity between Israel and Palestine is the result of a superior Israeli culture and, secondly, that Jerusalem is the rightful capital, and property, of Israel. The implications of such statements, if uttered in the time of the last US election campaigns, would have been immense – such was the global significance of the Palestinian question. What is an unfortunate fact, however, is that the Israel-Palestine conflict has been, and will continue to be, pushed to the side as the issue of a nuclear Iran takes precedence.

Nonetheless, seemingly determined to ensure the complete instability of the Middle-East, Romney furthered his recklessness by announcing his intentions for US foreign policy regarding Iran. Clearly unsatisfied with the already capricious nature of the politics of the Middle-East, Romney suggested that his administration would fully support Israel in a pre-emptive strike on Iran, stating that the USA “should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course”.

Yes, common sense dictates that Iran should not be allowed possession of nuclear weaponry but what is evident in Romney is a war-mongering potential president who seeks to employ the same neo-conservative hard-line stance of Ronald Reagan in the Cold War. Romney fails to understand the difference in situation; belligerent actions will do nothing but aggravate the ‘radical theocracy’ that is Iran. What is needed, and what Romney apparently lacks, is pragmatism and the ability to negotiate: to realise that peace in the Middle-East is the most pressing problem in global affairs, one in which warfare should never be endorsed, and that a solution is only possible if the USA is not seen as such an unyielding ally of Israel.

It would be easy for the Obama administration to adopt such a position on Iran, yet this current administration realise several reasons why warfare should not be advocated. The first and most obvious reason is the fact that action against Iran would not go unanswered. Iran itself would retort, but the greater fear of the US is that the peace of other countries cannot be guaranteed. Israel’s foes in the Middle-East have been happy to keep their peace for the time-being, but the reciprocal effect of an Israeli pre-emptive strike remains unknown. There is the very real chance that countries all over Africa and the Middle-East will rescind any peace settlements or détentes with Israel, not to mention the already hostile and nuclear North Korea and Pakistan rushing to the support of Iran. A Third World War is most definitely a tangible outcome of hostilities in the Middle-East.

In addition to this, the USA is aware that Israel’s own nuclear capabilities are a result of them choosing to opt out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. To protect non-proliferation of nuclear weaponry with such a hardened standpoint, as to support a belligerent attack, whilst actively allying with Israel, a state that ensures such opacity in its own nuclear programme, would not go down terribly well with the rest of the world. The Obama administration is acutely aware of this; Mitt Romney is, evidently, not.

In any case, if President Romney did manage to successfully put a lid on hostilities between Israel and Iran, what exactly would be his strategy in the Israel-Palestine conflict? During his visit to Israel in the last week, the Republican presidential candidate adopted what would be the most pro-Israel stance of any US President since the creation of the Jewish State in 1948. Having effectively alienated all Palestinian support, any attempts by Romney to be the mediator for negotiations would be academic.

The only plausible impact Romney could have upon the Palestinian question is to give Israel the go ahead to crush the Palestinians with their unparalleled military strength – something that nobody should put past the tactless Republican. If Romney is elected President, there will most likely be no positive development in the Israel-Palestine conflict for the duration of his incumbency and if there were to be, it would come without the help of the United States of America. If Romney is to be elected to the most powerful position in world politics, Israel and Palestine will be stuck in the retaliatory violence and attacks on one another that has defined their relationship in recent memory, and Palestinians will continue to be trapped within Gaza and the West Bank with no hope of development.

Please America, anyone but him.

US Presidential Election Roundup: 28/7 – 04/8

This week’s roundup of the US presidential elections…


Obama campaign takes risks with negative campaigning [New York Times] Campaign advisers and political strategists weigh in on the implications of negative ads.


Press prohibited from Romney fundraiser [Washington Post] Mitt Romney’s campaign initially banned media personnel from attending a fundraiser in Jerusalem.


Romney campaign reverses media ban [Washington Post] Following criticism, the Romney campaign agreed to allow journalists to attend and cover the Jerusalem fundraiser.


Romney sympathetic to potential Israeli attack on Iran [Sky News] An aide to Mitt Romney has said that the Republican contender ‘would respect’ a decision by Israel to attack Iran in order to prevent the country from acquiring nuclear weapons.


Pelosi accuses Republicans of exploiting Jewish voters [Talking Points Memo] Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader, has faced criticism from Eric Cantor after suggesting that Republicans are exploiting Jewish voters with regard to policies on Israel.


Jerusalem ‘the capital of Israel’ says Romney [Huffington Post] Speaking in the city, Mitt Romney has described Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.


Obama adviser attacks Romney after foreign trip [Telegraph] Robert Gibbs has described Mitt Romney’s trip to the UK as ’embarrassing for our country.’


Obama leads in new poll [The Hill] President Obama leads Mitt Romney by 4 points overall in a new poll, in addition to a narrower lead on economic issues.


Palestinians criticise Romney over ‘culture’ remarks [Huffington Post] An aide to the Palestinian president has said that Mitt Romney ‘lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people.’


Candidates’ ancestry analysed [ABC] The family history site Ancestry.com has said that President Obama may be descended from the first recorded African slave in America.


Romney aide criticises press [CNN] An aide to the Romney campaign told journalists to ‘show some respect’ after questions were directed to the Republican candidate as he visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw, Poland.


Romney accuses Russia of ‘oppression’ [Telegraph] In a speech at Warsaw University, Mitt Romney has said that, ‘In Russia, once-promising advances toward a free and open society have faltered.’


Obama makes campaign donation [CNN] It was announced in an email this week that President Obama has donated $5,000 to his re-election campaign.


DNC keynote speaker named [NPR] The mayor of San Antonio Julian Castro has been selected by President Obama as the keynote speaker at this year’s Democratic National Convention.


Data shows Florida tie [Politico] New poll data suggests a close election race between President Obama and Mitt Romney in the state of Florida.


Campaign apps unveiled [Politico] Smartphone apps have been made available for both the Obama and Romney election campaigns.


Reid accuses Romney of avoiding tax [Political Wire] Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, has suggested that Mitt Romney did not pay tax for 10 years.


New ad associates Romney with Bush [Huffington Post] A new Obama campaign ad has suggested similarities between the policies of former President George W. Bush and Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney.


Obama leads in battleground states [National Journal] New polls have found that President Obama has a lead over his rival Mitt Romney in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania.


‘Twitter Political Index’ revealed [Washington Post] Social media site Twitter has released an index in order to measure and analyse sentiment surrounding the election campaigns.


Clinton takes on support role [ABC] Former President Bill Clinton has begun to take a role in fundraising for the Obama campaign.


Campaigns react to employment data [Miami Herald] The Obama and Romney campaigns have reacted to data that suggested rises in both job creation and also unemployment.


Compiled by Patrick McGhee.

EU-Israeli Relations: Time For Sanctions?

EU-Israeli relations must drastically change if the EU wishes to uphold the values they claim to embody. If they do not, the EU will bear part of the responsibility for the Israeli occupation and subjugation of the Palestinian people.


EU-Israeli Relations[dhr]

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]f there is anything the politicians in the European Union’s parliament have become experts on, it is devising and applying economic and diplomatic sanctions on countries they deem as ‘outlaw’ states. Their list of targets is wide-ranging: Syria, Belarus, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and, of course, Iran. In many cases, the justification for the implementation of sanctions is sound, usually instigated by the abuse of human rights and a lack of political freedom.

If we accept these reasons as sufficient for the implementation of sanctions against a foreign country, then we should ask why none are being applied to Israel. To be sure, one could immediately object that it is useless to engage in such talk since the EU does not regard Israel as an ‘outlaw’ state such as the examples mentioned above.

It is at this point that the interesting fact of the matter lies. Recently, the EU has published two reports outlining the persistent violation of international law and human rights on behalf of Israel against the native Arab population. Before asking further questions, some factual quoting is in order.

The two reports are the EU Heads of Mission report on East Jerusalem published in 2011 and the European Neighbourhood Policy on Israel published in mid-May of this year.

The latter highlights irregularities in most areas it investigated. In the field of “freedom of association and freedom of expression and the media”, the report notes that “an increasing number of bills that can be labelled as potentially discriminatory or even anti-democratic” were proposed in the Knesset and the ones which have been passed “are examples of laws that raise concerns, as they can…alienate the Arab Israeli minority”.

Moreover, the “progress on the situation of the Arab minority was limited”. Furthermore, “the exercise of media freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly remained problematic in the occupied Palestinian territory in 2011”, “Israeli detentions of Palestinian journalists…continued” and “the situation of Palestinian human rights defenders remained critical”.

The report also noted that due to the acceptance of Palestine as a member of UNESCO, “Israel temporarily suspended the transfer of Palestinian tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority, contrary to its obligations under the Paris Protocol”, the document which outlines the economic relations between Israel and Palestine signed in April 1994 as part of Oslo 1.

The report went on to highlight that “settlement construction and expansion continued in the West Bank…with a surge in settlement activity at the end of 2011” and that “this undermines the prospects for a two-state solution”.

On the issue of administrative detention, the report notes that “there was a sharp increase in the number of administrative detainees” and that “the EU has repeatedly conveyed its concerns about this practice to the Israeli authorities in the framework of regular political and human rights dialogue”.

Not even children were spared. The report informs us about “insufficient protection of children during arrest and detention” with the abominable “cases of solitary confinement of children” continuing.

Further complaints include breach in freedom of religion for the Arab Christian minority, Palestinian social and economic rights being “hampered by Israeli restrictions on freedom of movement” and property rights coming under “particular strain…due to the demolition of their homes by Israel” in Area C of the West Bank.

If you find these findings harsh, then take a look at the EU Heads of Mission report on East Jerusalem. Here we find out that “Israel is actively perpetuating its [i.e. East Jerusalem’s] annexation by systematically undermining the Palestinian presence in the city through the continued expansion of settlements, restricting zoning and planning, ongoing demolitions and evictions, an inequitable education policy, difficult access to health care and the inadequate provision of resources and investment”.

The report explicitly acknowledges that “Israel’s actions in East Jerusalem have run counter to its stated commitment to a sustainable peace with the Palestinians” and “in accordance with international law, the EU regards East Jerusalem as occupied territory” thus considering “the construction of the separation barrier illegal under international law where it is built under occupied territory.”

The document continues with extensive and detailed criticisms of Israel’s settlement policy, archaeological projects supposedly searching for biblical artifacts, “planning, demolitions, eviction and displacements”, the “residency status”, “access and movement” of the native Arab population and inequalities in the allotment of education and health resources for local Arabs.

In a few words, the two reports highlight the almost total disregard of basic human rights on behalf of the Israeli political establishment when dealing with its native Arab population. They explicitly demonstrate violations of international law and the adoption of discriminatory policies on the behalf of Israel.

If the EU is fully aware of these facts, the obvious question is not only why the Union does nothing to put real pressure on Israel, such as its beloved threat and implementation of diplomatic and economic sanctions, but especially why it is doing the exact opposite by increasing its economic and diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.

If the politicians in the European parliament want to uphold the values they claim the EU embodies, and if they do not want to smack of hypocrisy, they need to drastically change its relations with Israel and begin to consider the use of sanctions. Until they do so, they bear part of the responsibility for the Israeli occupation and subjugation of the Palestinian people.

Legally, Israel’s Possession Of East Jerusalem Holds Weight

Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, basing their arguments on misinterpreted and irrelevant legal acts.



[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he question of legal right to sovereignty over East Jerusalem has been disputed among the parties involved and international actors since the establishment of the State of Israel. The UN General Assembly foresaw the internationalization of the Holy City in Resolution 181 in order to prevent any conflicts between Jews and Arabs and marginalize any claims of both sides. The reality however took a different course after the War of Independence in which Jerusalem became divided into two parts: Israeli in the west, and Jordanian in the east. The Six Day War in 1967 gave a chance for reunification of the city; Israel expanded the municipal area of the city by 28 surrounding Arab villages’ land and by doing so declared the annexation of East Jerusalem and treated it as an integral part of Israel proper. Consequently in 1980, the Israeli parliament passed its Basic Law, in which it reiterated the legal status of Jerusalem within Israeli jurisprudence as the undivided capital of Israel and the place of residence for Israeli governmental and other state institutions.

No country around the world has recognized any part of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and no country around the world recognized the annexation of East Jerusalem to Israel. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the future capital of their state and vehemently oppose Israeli claims to East Jerusalem. The UN Security Council response to the ‘Jerusalem Law’ was Resolution 478 which called the aforementioned law “null and void” and this resolution has been complied with and agreed upon by a majority of states. The last countries to move their embassies to Tel Aviv were Costa Rica and El Salvador in 2006.

East Jerusalem is home to 428,304 people, constituting 59,5% of Jerusalem’s population, from which 181,457 are Jewish, 229,004 are Muslim and 13,638 are Christian. Obviously, both Muslim and Christian population are predominantly Palestinian, thus constituting a majority. The Arab residents are not, however, given an automatic Israeli citizenship but a permanent residence card and right to vote in municipal elections.  Israeli citizenship can be obtained by an application and swearing loyalty to the State of Israel.

Israel holds a de facto sovereignty over East Jerusalem. The city, from Pisgat Ze’ev and the Mount of Olives to Ein Kerem, it has a unified infrastructure system – roads, sewage system, electricity and gas pipelines – and an open access for all the residents to welfare services, healthcare etc.

As stated by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jerusalem has never been as significant for other nations as for the Jews. Israelis argue that their right to sovereignty over the entirety of Jerusalem is rooted in 3000 years history of Jewish affiliation to the city as their capital. Israel has also guaranteed a peaceful administration of the city. Since its takeover of East Jerusalem in 1967, freedom of access was granted to the holy sites to the pilgrims of all the religions, and the government maintained good relations with the administrative bodies of the holy sites, something that was lacking during the Jordanian rule of the Old City (under which the Jewish quarter was destroyed, Christians had a very limited access to the Holy Sepulcher and only Muslims could visit the Temple Mount without any restrictions).

International law experts such as Steven Schwebel, Eli Lanterpacht or Yehuda Blum provide more concrete legal arguments for Israel for her claims. According to those experts, Israel has much better claims to sovereignty over East Jerusalem, since the Six Day War that Israel won was a defensive war on her part and therefore the territories, which were acquired in this war, do not fall under the category of an unlawful occupation. Jordan has rescinded its claims to the West Bank in the Peace Treaty of 1994 and therefore there is no other claimant who could outweigh Israeli claims to the city. As for Palestinians, they have never in history formed a separate state and presented a sense of Palestinian nationhood and only recently did they claim Jerusalem for their capital, whereas Jews, since the establishment of the city by King David, did. Following those arguments, Israeli side claims that the status of Jerusalem is non-negotiable and Israel holds exclusive sovereignty over the city.

The Palestinian position concerning East Jerusalem is quite simple. East Jerusalem is a subject to Resolution 242 and therefore Israel must withdraw from this area as well as from all the areas conquered in 1967. The whole of Jerusalem, including the Western part, is a subject to negotiations on the Final Status as stated in the Declaration of Principles signed both by PA and Israel in 1993. Palestinians also claim that Jerusalem should be an open city without any restrictions on movement whatsoever, and claims that upon the return of East Jerusalem to Palestinian state as its capital, such a state will guarantee free access to the holy sites to the believers of all faiths. Furthermore, Palestinians claim the vital importance of Jerusalem for Palestine as the most important city of the West Bank, a connecting point between the northern and southern part of Palestinian Occupied Territories. Palestinians point to Jerusalem as the only and natural place for the capital of future Palestinian state and clearly indicate the illegality of not only Israeli occupation of the West Bank, but the annexation of East Jerusalem and even its presence in West Jerusalem.

As far as the world public opinion is considered, the stance of the main actors – US, EU and the UN – do not differ greatly. American statements clearly indicate the need for regulating the status of the city in direct negotiations between Israel and PA. As for the EU, on March 1st 1999  the German ambassador in Israel, Theodor Wallau, wrote to Ariel Sharon, confirming “the long standing view” of European Union, which considers the status of Jerusalem in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947, i.e. as an international zone. In 2009 the Council of the European Union called in its statement for Jerusalem to become the capital of both states – Israeli and future Palestinian one.

The UN Secretary General, irrespective of who was holding the post, followed the policies adopted by the Security Council and General Assembly. The statement by Ban Ki-Moon confirmed the UN demands for the negotiations of the status of Jerusalem and indicated the need for division of the city and the end of Israeli occupation.

Relevance of the Resolution 181/1947 and Israel – Jordan Armistice agreement

The United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947, in which the states agreed upon partitioning the territory of former British Mandate of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, included the internationalization of the Greater Jerusalem area as well. Jewish representatives accepted the plan, since it was the first legal international act legitimizing the existence of Israel, however the Arab countries expressed their vehement opposition to the resolution and rejected it outright. The plan did not work out since the Arab states invaded Israel after the British evacuation and the armistice agreements with Egypt, Jordan and Syria formed new borders, which did not reflect in any sense the borders of the partition plan.  The borders of 1949 Armistice line were, in accordance with the armistice agreement with Jordan, solely a military arrangement as stated in Article II, clause 2 of the agreement, void of any political implications:

“It is also recognised that no provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims and positions of either Party hereto in the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine question, the provisions of this Agreement being dictated exclusively by military considerations.”

 It is therefore legitimate to argue, that neither Jordan nor Israel recognized each other’s sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem, leaving its status subject to final negotiations. Nevertheless, the territory of Israel drawn by the armistice lines, which existed between 1949 and 1967 became internationally recognized as Israel proper. In those years, merely a few countries recognized West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. As it was mentioned before, EU considers Jerusalem an international zone in accordance with the Resolution 181, and claims to change its stance only upon a mutually agreed status between Palestinian Authority and Israel. It seems that the international community is willing to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over West Jerusalem, as agreed between Jordan and Israel in 1949.

Relevance of the resolution no. 242/1967 and the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty

The Six Day War expanded Israeli territory into West Bank, with East Jerusalem falling under its control. The UN Security Council Resolution 242 issued the same year reads:

Affirms that the fulfillment of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:

– Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;

-Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force

The Arab side argues, in contradiction to the real meaning of the resolution, that Israel has to withdraw from all the territories, acquired in the 1967 war. However, even the author of the resolution, Lord Caradon, representative of the UK to UNSC stressed that firstly borders have to be mutually agreed and only then Israel is to withdraw to “secured and recognized borders”, hence it implies the status of East Jerusalem as pending the final agreement between Israel and Jordan. The final agreement was already signed in 1994 in the form of a peace treaty between those two states. Although the treaty stipulates Jordanian recognition of the borders of Israel “without any prejudice to the territories of West Bank”, the treaty fulfills all the conditions presented in Resolution 242.

The resolution does not mention Palestinians in any of its paragraphs or does not demand the establishment of independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. The PA’s argument that Israel acts in breach of the Resolution 242 by annexing East Jerusalem is therefore void; Israel and Jordan already fulfilled the requirements of the 242 – they agreed upon the borders and therefore Israel’s sovereignty over East Jerusalem, in the context of 242, is definitely and legally substantiated.

Jerusalem law and Resolution 478

It is not, however, Resolution 242 that puts Israel’s sovereignty in East Jerusalem at odds. In 1980, The Israeli Knesset passed a Basic Law, commonly referred to as Jerusalem law, which states that Jerusalem, undivided and complete, is the capital of Israel. The international public opinion did not accept this motion and the same year UNSC passed a Resolution 478, which called the Jerusalem law “void and null”, followed by a recommendation of moving the embassies outside Jerusalem. Today all countries comply with it. One could argue that Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty has made the Resolution 478 expired, but clearly none of the countries perceives it that way.

Other Considerations

Although the international community clearly sees Israel’s claim over East Jerusalem as void and illegal, some universal legal and technical aspects of  it have to be taken into consideration, if the subject is supposed to be examined in a purely non-politicized fashion. It has been stated numerous times, that the international law is focused on stability and it’s main purpose is to reduce the implications of change in the balance of power. The demanded division of Jerusalem, which advocates stability, is obviously not an option. Jerusalem has been administered peacefully for the last 40 years. The Arab rioters fighting with Israeli police do not really count, since numerous examples can be given drawing upon Europe or USA, where severe riots broke out, but there was no one to question the sovereignty of those states over the riot areas.

The most important consideration is the fact that the division of the city is abnormal and unnatural. The international community sought the reunification of Berlin as soon as possible. The division of Lefkosa/Nikosia in Cyprus is still unacceptable. Dividing the city is also hard to implement because of the topography and unified infrastructure of Jerusalem – the Jewish neighbourhoods are mixed with the Arab ones and splitting all of the city’s infrastructural systems would paralyze both parts of the city.

In sum, it is a general international consensus that creates a legal basis for state’s actions; if then, from day 1, a majority of countries did not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over West Jerusalem, it is hard to argue that Israel holds sovereignty also over East Jerusalem, despite its concrete and strong legal arguments. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, basing their arguments on misinterpreted and irrelevant legal acts. Israelis claim sovereignty over all of Jerusalem in accordance with the international law. Despite this, none of the countries around the world will accept Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem, until it is negotiated in the Final Status agreement. In the light of all of the aspects, facts and legal documents presented, it is right, in this author’s opinion, to say that the status of Jerusalem is unregulated and none of the parties holds a de jure sovereignty over East Jerusalem.

Jerusalem: Stumbling Block For Peace

“Jerusalem is the main stumbling block for peace”. Discuss.
{Department of War Studies, King’s College London}



[dropcap]J[/dropcap]erusalem 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’.[1] 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.[2] 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.[3] 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’.[4] 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’.[5] 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).[6] 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’.[7] 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’.[8] 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’.[9] 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).[10] 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’.[11] 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’.[12]

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.[13] 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’.[14] 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.[15] 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.[16] 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.[17] Thus, to conclude this section, the issues inflicting on a settlement on the city are fourfold: international, regional, national and local.[18]

Intra-national Divisions

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.[19]

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’.[20] 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.[21] 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.[22] 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’.[23] 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.[24]

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.[25]

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.[26] Secondly, it firmly considers Israel’s motivation to partake in a settlement as an attempt to consolidate territory by ulterior means,[27] a viewpoint that has garnered support among certain regiments of the pro-Palestine academic lobby.[28] 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’.[29] 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’.[30] 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’.

The Options

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’ –[31] 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.[32] 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.[33] 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.[34] 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.[35] 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.[36] 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.[37]

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.[38] 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).[39] 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.[40]

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.[41] 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.[42] 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.[43]

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.[44] 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.[45] 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’.[46] 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’.[47] 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.[48]

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.

In Summation

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.

[toggle title=”Citations & Bibliography”]

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)
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.
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’
48 The Guardian (2011), ‘Palestinians agreed only 10,000 refugees could return to Israel’

Al-Zahar, Mahmud [Hamas Foreign Minister] (2008), ‘No Peace Without Hamas’, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 37, No. 4, pp. 165-166

Abowd, Thomas (2004), ‘Carving up the Capital’, Middle East Report, No. 230, pp. 4-11

Albin, Cecilia (2005), ‘Explaining Conflict Transformation: How Jerusalem Became Negotiable’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, Vol. 18, No. 3, pp. 339-355

Barak, Oren (2005), ‘The Failure of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process’, Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 42, No. 6, pp. 719-736

Bell, Christine (2006), ‘Peace Agreements: Their Nature and Legal Status’, The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 100, No. 2, pp. 373-412

Biton, Yifat & Saloman, Gavriel (2006), ‘Peace in the Eyes of Israeli and Palestinian Youths: Effects of Collective Narratives and Peace Education Program’, Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 42, No. 2, pp. 167-180

Cattan, Henry (1981), ‘The Status of Jerusalem under International Law and United Nations Resolutions’, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp. 3-15

Dumper, Michael (1993), ‘Jerusalem’s Infrastructure: Is Annexation Irreversible?’, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 22, No. 3, pp. 78-95

Emmet, Chad F. (1997), ‘The Status Quo Solution for Jerusalem’, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 26, No. 2, pp. 16-28

The Guardian (2011), Palestinians agreed only 10,000 refugees could return to Israel, [online] Available at: http://guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/24/palestinians-10000-refugees-return-israel [Accessed 22 January 2012]

The Guardian (2011), The Palestine Papers: ‘Clinton told us to be quiet’, [online] Available at: www.guardian.co.uk/world/palestine-papers-documents/4660 [Accessed 21 January 2012]

Gunning, Jeroen (2004), ‘Peace with Hamas? The Transforming Potential of Political Participation’, International Affairs, Vol. 80, No. 2, pp. 233-255

Harris, Nigel (2001), ‘Collapse of Peace Process’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 36, No. 37, pp. 3513-3517

Hasson, Shlomo (2002), The Struggle for Hegemony in Jerusalem: Secular and Ultra-Orthodox Urban Politics (Jerusalem: The Floersheimer Institute for Policy Studies)

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Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research & Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace (2011), Increase in Palestinians’ and Israelis’ willingness to compromise amidst climate of feud and mistrust, [online] Available at: http://www.pcpsr.org/survey/polls/2011/p42ejoint.html [Accessed 22 January 2012]
  • East Jerusalem to become the capital of a Palestinian state, West Jerusalem the capital of the Israeli state. Arab neighbourhoods under Palestinian sovereignty, Jewish neighbourhoods under Israeli sovereignty. The Old City bar the Jewish Quarter and the Wailing Wall would come under Palestinian sovereignty, with the two named exceptions under Israeli sovereignty.
December, 2011 December, 2010
Palestinians 40% support, 59% oppose 36% for, 63% against
Israelis 38% support, 60% oppose 38% for, 58% against
  • Refugees would be able to choose from: the Palestinian state and the Israeli areas transferred to the Palestinian state as mentioned below; no restrictions would be imposed on refugee return to these two areas. Residency in other areas (host countries, third countries, and Israel) would be subject to the decision of these states. As a base for its decision Israel will consider the average number of refugees admitted to third countries like Australia, Canada, Europe, and others. All refugees would be entitled to compensation for their “refugeehood” and loss of property.
December, 2011 December, 2010
Palestinians 45% support, 53% oppose 41% for, 57% against
Israelis 42% support, 51% oppose 36% for, 52% against
  • Israel to withdraw completely from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip except for several large blocks of settlements in 3% of the West Bank which would be annexed to Israel. Palestinian state to form in the rest of the West Bank and Gaza and will in turn annex approx 3% of Israeli territory.
December, 2011 December, 2010
Palestinians 63% support, 36% oppose 49% for, 50% against
Israelis 51% support, 44% oppose 49% for, 43% against