Sulafa Hijjawi



Jerusalem is unique among the cities of the world, not only due to its association with the three monotheistic religions, that have their holy places within its precincts, but also because of its strategic location in the Arab Region, which constitutes the Old world and has always been and is still considered to be the heart of the world
Every power, throughout the stormy history of the region, focused on capturing Jerusalem. To get hold of the city meant getting hold of the whole region. Overlooking the ancient road of the empires from its perch on top of the hills, its strategic importance was accentuated. At the same time, being higher than the rest of the old human settlements, it seemed as if it were nearer to God. Since ancient times and up to now, the sacred and the political have been so intermingled in Jerusalem that it is very hard to differentiate between them, or to say which comes first: the sacred or the political. Yet, the impact of the first makings of the reality or the myth of Jerusalem never ceased to affect people and events. History lives in Jerusalem
Now, with the miraculous scientific and technological advances that have been achieved, and their effect on the nature of warfare, the strategic importance of Jerusalem on the international level has diminished to a minimum. Only Palestinians and Israelis now consider Jerusalem to have a strategic importance, while the historic and the sacred dimensions of Jerusalem have been accentuated beyond Palestine and the region. For , with the dramatic developments the world has witnessed during the past few years, namely the retreat of the socialist and secularist ideologies and the reawakening of ethnic and religious beliefs, Jerusalem has restored its emotional appeal for Moslems, Christians and Jews worldwide
The strategic importance of Jerusalem for the Palestinians is nationally existential. The outcome of the 1948 war cut the Palestinian national body in two. The Israeli occupation of the rest of Jerusalem in 1967has accentuated this separation.  As long as the conflict is raging, a Palestinian from Gaza will have to travel across Egypt and Jordan to get to the West Bank. For Israel, the strategic importance is minimal, except in cutting the Palestinian body in two
The Declaration of Principles, signed on the 13th of September 1993 by the Israeli government and the PLO, alluded only to a corridor between the two areas occupied by Israel in1967and which the Israeli forces are supposed to withdraw from: the Gaza Strip and the West bank. Therefore, the final negotiations on the status of Jerusalem will have to eliminate the strategic threat for both sides and provide for a territorial link
The second dimension with regard to Jerusalem proper is national. The Israeli occupation and annexation of Jerusalem was made under the pretext of a historic and biblical right to restore the capital of the Jewish kingdom of David and Solomon, which existed, according to Jewish beliefs, some thirty centuries ago. As for the Palestinians, since the 17th century, the mayors of Jerusalem were always Palestinian, and by the middle of the 19th century, the Mutasarrifiya of Jerusalem encompassed about 80% of the area that later came to be known as mandatory Palestine, enjoying an autonomous status within the Islamic Ottoman Empire. The Mutasarrifiya constituted the cradle of the Palestinian national personality and character, hence, their political and national awareness. Contrary to what happened in Europe with the advent of the national age, religion constituted a component of nationalism in the Arab region, and Jerusalem has since been considered the seat of the national and the sacred for the Palestinians:  Moslems and  Christians
  In the past, any change in the boundaries of the city or the district of Jerusalem used to be considered simply a matter of administerial organization. With the Israeli occupation and annexation of West Jerusalem in 1948 and East Jerusalem in 1967,  the enlargement of the area of the municipality meant devouring more territory
     Whereas the area of the Holy city never changed through time = one square kilometer = due to the existence of the ancient walls, the surrounding city witnessed several municipal boundaries. Up to the end of the British mandate on Palestine on the 15th of May 1948,   the area of Jerusalem proper did not exceed 20 sq.kms. The 1948 war ended with Israel occupying about 16 sq.kms of the city and added to them several kilometers of the lands of many Arab villages it had erased from existence on its way to Jerusalem. The occupied part came to be known as West Jerusalem. Between 1948 and 1967, Jordan administered the remaining part and annexed to it parts of the surrounding villages . On the eve of the 1967 war, the area of East Jerusalem was about 6,5 sq. kms. The 1967 war ended with Israel occupying and annexing East Jerusalem. Since 1967, the Israeli authorities have been expanding the boundaries of the `unified city at the expense of the surrounding villages. East Jerusalem is now about 70 sq. kms., the whole city is about 123 sq. kms., constituting about 2,3 percent of the total area of the occupied West Bank. Moreover, the successive Israeli governments since 1967 and up to the signing of the DOP in 1993, confiscated more than 40 percent of Palestinian lands within the enlarged East Jerusalem and built no less than 15 settlements and stuffed them with Jewish residents. Even after the signing of the DOP, Israeli attempts to enlarge the boundaries of the city and to erect new settlements within the enlarged East Jerusalem has not ceased. The governments of the late prime minister, Yitshaq Rabin and his successor, Shimon Perez, conducted some restraint, noting that the DOP states unequivocally that no unilateral actions be taken by both sides  that would alter the statuesque pending the final negotiations. Yet, the Likudist government which assumed power in June 1996, was intent on changing the statuesque and was continuously changing it.   The latest scenario of the Likudist Israeli prime minister, Mr. Netanyahu, was delivered in 1997.It was a plan to enlarge the boundaries of the city in all directions. The northern and eastern part of the plan was called  the Umbrella, that is to provide a Jerusalem umbrella to the existing Israeli settlements in those parts of the West Bank, so that a defacto annexation of those settlements to Jerusalem would emerge.  The Abu Ghneim (Harhoma) project in the south eastern fringes of Jerusalem was another example. Construction works, confiscation of land and demolishing of Palestinian homes on the pretext that there are built without license,  have not ceased since the advent of the Barak led labor government. In East Jerusalem there are now about 43 thousand Jewish houses built on Palestinian expropriated land, whereas Palestinian building is allowed only in 7% of the enlarged East Jerusalem. About 198 Palestinian houses have been demolished during the last eight years
As for the population, all the Arabs of West Jerusalem of about 60 thousand, fled the city in 1948 under the impact of the Israeli invasion, leaving all their property and belongings behind. They have never been allowed to return to their homes since then. In 1967, most of the Palestinian Arab population of East Jerusalem, amounting to 80 thousand, stayed put. Only about 8 thousand, who were living by the wailing wall of the Jews, had been driven away by force
In 1967, the total population of the unified city under occupation was about 268 thousand: 200 thousand Jews in the Western part and 68 thousand Arabs in the Eastern part of the city. As the Israeli authorities started to expand the boundaries of the city right after occupation, they were keen enough to exclude as much as possible of the population of the annexed villages. Several villages were included, but  their residents were pushed to the outer fringes
In July 1993, a few weeks before the signing of the Declaration of Principles, an assistant of the ex mayor of Jerusalem, announced triumphantly that Jews had become a majority in East Jerusalem, citing a number of 152,800 Jews against 150,000 Palestinians. But recent estimates have indicated otherwise. Israeli estimate for the first half of 1998 showed that Palestinians have outnumbered Jews in East Jerusalem:180,000 against 170,000 while the total population of West and East Jerusalem was estimated about 700,000. The estimates of the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics of 1998, cites the number of about 210,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem
A few years ago, an Israeli intellectual described Jerusalem as a city held together by force, take away Israeli coercive power and the city would split on the ethnic fault line. On the human level, the so called united city is today more devided than ever. Every thing that concerns Palestinians is separate: schools, busses, identity cards, birth, death and marriage certificates, even blood banks for the Palestinians are separate. So, one may suppose that it would be easy to separate the two ethnic groups by repartitioning the city, once the coercive power decides to loosen its grip
Yet the Israeli policy of fait accompli during the last 45 years has changed the face of Jerusalem, and since 1967 in particular, has reduced the Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem into scattered and alienated human islands, almost totally encircled by Jewish settlements. Drastic measures have been adopted over the past years by the Israeli government and the municipality of Jerusalem to judaize the city either by coercing the Palestinians to leave, or by minimizing their presence into small segregated ghettoes. Such measures have been applied in three ways: maximize annexation of land, minimize Arab population and maximize Jewish population, and encircle the Arab habitats with huge residential Jewish settlements


The proposals that have been submitted for the solution of the conflict over Jerusalem are plenty. The first of these proposals was incorporated in the United Nation’s resolution 181 of 1948 for the partition of mandatory Palestine into two Arab and Jewish states and the internationalization of Jerusalem. The official stance of the international community still upholds the idea of internationalization. Jerusalem is not legally recognized as the capital of Israel by any party, including Israel it self. After the end of  military operations in 1948 , Israel issued an ordinance applying Israeli law to the western part it occupied of the city.  This ordinance , as well as the Knesset’s approval of a proclamation by the Israeli prime minister that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel, was not recognized by the UN, the USA, or any other viable state. Most of the states that recognized Israel located their embassies in Tel Aviv. After the occupation of East Jerusalem, the Knesset passed a new ordinance applying Israeli Jurisdiction to the newly occupied part and in 1980 passed another law considering Jerusalem capital of Israel. Nevertheless, all those ordinances and laws have not been entrenched in Israeli law. The UN and the Security Council in particular, rejected the move and has ever since, continued to consider East Jerusalem as part of the occupied Arab territories. After the 1967 war, even those few small states that had their embassies in Jerusalem, moved them to Tel Aviv. The DOP of 1993 put Jerusalem on the agenda of the final negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. It is important to note that, as for Jerusalem, the international community’s main concern is centered in the Old City, which encompasses the holy places of the three monotheistic religions. Moslems and Christians in general, reject any kind of settlement that would leave the holy city under the exclusive sovereignty of Israel. Therefore, several proposals suggest a special status for the holy city, to be protected by appropriate judicial safeguards internationally respected and guaranteed and without any bearing on the issue of sovereignty. Building on the above mentioned proposal, one can envision that a solution would be reached whereby the holy city is put under a shared Israeli =Palestinian sovereignty by appointing three mayors: an Israeli Jew, a Palestinian Moslem and a Palestinian Christian-noting that the Christian churches in Palestine are part of the Palestinian body politique. Accordingly, residence in the holy city should be limited and proportionate and the city remains an open city
On the Israeli –Palestinian level, the fact that the Declaration of Principles includes Jerusalem among the final stage negotiated issues constitutes a breakthrough, considering the fact that the previous Israeli position was adamant in its refusal to negotiate Jerusalem
The general Palestinian position concerning Jerusalem is in conformity with the international community’s position: that East Jerusalem is an occupied territory that the UN resolutions 242 and 338 apply to Jerusalem as part of the occupied territories. The Palestinians hope that a happy end to the negotiations would make of East Jerusalem the capital of the Palestinian State
yet, there is now a semi general acceptance among the Palestinians that a happy end to the negotiations may not necessarily end by redefining the City and that   an agreement could be reached whereby the Palestinians would consider East Jerusalem the capital of their state and the Israelis consider West Jerusalem their capital. Needles to say that if the question of sovereignty over the Old City is resolved according to the above mentioned formula, which gives limited sovereignty for both sides, the precincts would be discarded of the Holy and the Historic dimensions of the issue, and the remaining problem would be purely political
But the matter is not so simple as that. The road to peace in Jerusalem is fraught with many risks which only good will and sincere intentions to achieve lasting peace could overcome. Lasting peace could only be achieved through a compromise based on the principle of relative justice for the Palestinian people: East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state 
The above mentioned trends indicate that there will be very hard negotiations on Jerusalem. Consequently, even if the Israeli government agrees on certain Joint administerial solution for the Holy City, it will continue, during the interim period, to create as many facts as possible in order to marginalize any other presence there. The same trend applies to East Jerusalem. Therefore, in order not to forestall the final negotiations, the Israeli government should be induced to adopt certain confidence building measures during the interim period, in order to prepare for a propitious climate for the final negotiations, namely
     Prohibiting the non government Jewish ideological and organizations from continuing taking the law into their hands. In fact, these societies were encouraged and given large government donations by the previous Israeli governments while the present one has not taken any measure to check them
A refrain from confiscating more lands and from building new settlements in and around East Jerusalem
    Allow Palestinians to have their proportionate right of building licenses
As for the final negotiations. One can expect that they will cover all the spectrum of issues, ranging from the issue of sovereignty in a peacefully united city, to the issues related to land confiscations and the formation of two municipalities, the right of Palestinians to live in West Jerusalem and the status of the Holy City
The question is how an ethnically devided city will learn to live in a unified city, in peace, through good will and not by coercion, away from ghettoes and the spirit of the ghetto