The Jerusalem Post
December 8, 2009 Tuesday

Two capitals for two states for two peoples

by GERSHON BASKIN


The Europeans got it right - peace begins with Jerusalem. The walls
and fences that have been built in the city must come down.
Encountering Peace. The writer is co- CEO of the Israel/Palestine
Center for Research and Information (www.ipcri.org) and a member of
the leadership of the Israeli Green Movement political party.

Not one country in the world recognizes our capital, Jerusalem, as the
capital of Israel. Even the United States footnotes the following on
the State Department Web page: Israel proclaimed Jerusalem as its
capital in 1950. The US, like nearly all other countries, maintains
its embassy in Tel Aviv. UN Security Council Resolution 478 declared
the 1980 Jerusalem Law that declared Jerusalem to be Israel's "eternal
and indivisible" capital null and void, affirming that it was a
violation of international law.

The European Union is debating its own position on Jerusalem. The
debate is a much better reflection of the reality of Jerusalem than
any of the governing politicians in Jerusalem have the courage to
admit. After lying to the public for 42 years about Jerusalem being
the united eternal capital of Israel, it is time to admit there are
two Jerusalems - one Israeli and one Palestinian. Even Teddy Kollek,
the 20th century Herod, admitted in 1988 that "coexistence in
Jerusalem is dead." This was a great blow for the man who believed he
had united the city.

Since the birth of the State of Israel, Jerusalem has never been
united. From 1949 to 1967, it was divided by a wall and barbed wire,
and since 1967 it has been divided politically, culturally, ethnically
and nationally. While it is true that the massive Israeli annexation
of land and building in what was once called east Jerusalem has
changed the definitions of the division, with a near Jewish majority
in east Jerusalem, the geography is not the proper definitive term. It
is more correct to speak about Israeli Jerusalem and Palestinian
Jerusalem.

LET'S ADMIT it to ourselves, we, as Israelis, don't really care about
the Palestinian parts of Jerusalem. Even though they have been under
our rule for the past 42 years, we don't treat them as equal parts of
the city. They do not receive nearly the same services as Israeli
neighborhoods. Their educational system is backward, underfunded,
crowded and incapable of filling the needs of the people there. Today,
one of Jerusalem's Palestinian neighborhoods, Kafr Akab, is located
beyond the separation wall after the Kalandiya checkpoint.

We have to sincerely ask ourselves: Do we really want the Shuafat
refugee camp as part of the eternal undivided capital of the State of
Israel? To the best of my knowledge we do not chant: If I forget thee
Umm Tuba, let my right hand wither, or by the waters of Babylon, we
sat and wept when we remembered thee Jebl Mukaber.

We do not say: Next year in Walaja and we certainly do not pray for
the peace of Sur Bahir. For Beit Hanina's sake, I will not be silent.

In a way, we are fortunate that the city is so segregated - it makes
its political partition possible. As a member of prime minister Ehud
Barak's expert committee on Jerusalem prior to the Taba summit in
January 2001, we sat around a large aerial photograph and drew lines
of division of sovereignty, based on the Clinton parameters for
Jerusalem which stated: what's Jewish to Israel, what's Arab to the
Palestinians. We were instructed by the prime minister to design
Israel's strategy for the future of Jerusalem on that basis, and it
can be done.

Of course, the most sensitive part of Jerusalem is the Old City. It is
less than one square kilometer and is composed of four quarters - the
Muslim (the largest quarter by far), Christian, Armenian and Jewish.
There are two possible solutions for the Old City: a special
international regime which would protect and guarantee the rights and
the security of all within its walls or the application of the Clinton
parameters to it as well - meaning that the Palestinians would have
sovereignty over the Muslim, Christian and probably the Armenian
quarters and Israel would have sovereignty over the Jewish Quarter.

The heart of the heart of Jerusalem is the Temple Mount/Haram
al-Sharif. For the Muslims, it is their third most holy place. Here
Ibrahim brought Ishmael for sacrifice (according to their tradition)
and here the prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven to begin receiving
the revelation of the Koran. For Muslims, the commandment of hajj is
not complete until visiting Jerusalem after Mecca and Medina.

For Jews, it is the most holy place. Wherever Jews are in the world
they face Jerusalem in prayer and within Jerusalem, they turn their
prayers to the Temple Mount. Current and long-standing Halacha, and
the decisions of the Chief Rabbinate and the important haredi rabbis,
is that Jews should not enter the Temple Mount. The reason is that we
don't know the location of the Holy of Holies and the rabbis want to
prevent the site from becoming impure.

Since 1967, Israel has claimed sovereignty over the Temple Mount, but
in practice it is controlled by the Muslim authorities. It would be
completely possible to turn the status quo into de facto Muslim
sovereignty and from the Jewish point of view, we could easily say
that when the messiah comes, the terms of sovereignty can be changed
(if so desired by God).

Recognizing that Jerusalem is two cities is the first step to making
peace with the Palestinians and the Arabs. Jerusalem should not be
left for the end of the process. The Europeans got it right - peace
begins with Jerusalem. The walls and fences that have been built in
the city over the past years must come down. The only walls that
should remain are those around the Old City.

Jerusalem will become a place of great international importance - when
there are over 150 embassies in the city (that could serve two states)
and it is open, modernized, environmentally conscious, as cities of
international importance are. Then, it will not only be the city of
peace, it will also be a much more pleasant city to live in.

Resolving that Jerusalem will be the capital of two states is not only
doable, it is the only way that Jerusalem will be recognized as the
capital of Israel.