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Debate: Dividing Jerusalem

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Background and context

Jerusalem is a city in the Middle East that is currently under the control of Israel. In contemporary times, the status of Jerusalem begins in 1947. After World War I, the League of Nations approved the British Mandate of Palestine with the intent of creating a "national home for the Jewish people."
In 1947, the United Nations approved the partition of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. Jerusalem was to remain an "international city" until both an Israeli and Palestinian state were established.
On May 14, 1948 the state of Israel declared independence. The Palestinians and other Arab states, objecting to the existence of Israel, launched a military offensive against Israel in 1948. Israel's subsequent victory caused the idea of a Palestinian state to recede. Following the war of 1967, Israel assumed de facto control over all of Jerusalem, declaring its "unification". Jerusalem's status under international law, however, has remained undetermined. Since 1967, Palestinians have continued to fight to establish an independent Palestinian state out of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and (in most forms) with Jerusalem as a shared capital with the Israelis (under most Palestinian proposals). Because Palestinians generally require that Jerusalem be included in any Peace Agreement, the Peace Process has been stuck on the question of whether or not to "divide" or "share" Jerusalem as the capital of both an Israel and Palestinian state. Palestinians have generally rejected the idea of establishing a Palestinian state without Jerusalem as its capital. The debate regarding whether to "share" Jerusalem, therefore, remains central the Middle East Peace process. The debate revolves around the following questions. Will "sharing" Jerusalem help the Middle East Peace Process and long-term stability? Or, will it merely transfer the battle-lines of the current conflict into Jerusalem, where it could possibly be more damaging? Do Palestinians and Israelis have equally valid claims to Jerusalem, or does one have a better claim? What does international law say? How do we read the UN's initial efforts to make Jerusalem into an "international protectorate"? Have these efforts been invalidated by subsequent events, namely the many wars that have been fought since? Does the UN's intention to make Jerusalem into an "international" city still apply? What would sharing Jerusalem do to Israeli and Palestinian societies? Would sharing Jerusalem be good for the economies of Israel and a Palestinian state?


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Peace process: Is dividing Jerusalem important to the peace process?

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Yes

Although it took a decade, the Israelis realized that they could not be secure from Palestinian rancor if they deprived Muslim and Christian Palestinians of sovereignty over the Muslim Noble Sanctuary and the holy Christian churches. The Palestinian negotiators also acknowledged the corollary Israeli need for sovereignty over not only the Wailing Wall, but also the Jewish Temple Mount."
Thomas Friedman. "Uniting Jerusalem". New York Times. 11 Aug. 2000 - "Sharing Jerusalem, and the Haram-Temple Mount, is the only sustainable solution. If the Israeli center can't embrace that -- or if the Palestinians, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia can't embrace that -- then no final peace is possible. It's time for everyone to show his real cards.
The good news: If they can share Jerusalem, they can share the Middle East. Because the only way they can share Jerusalem is by acknowledging and respecting each other's deepest claims."


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No

  • Dividing Jerusalem would shift the battle lines to the city Nadav Shragai. "Envisioning a divided Jerusalem". Haaretz. - "Those who give the Palestinians control over the Temple Mount, the "outlying neighborhood" next to the Western Wall, will no longer be able to pray in peace at the Wall, or hold Memorial Day ceremonies or induction ceremonies for paratroopers there; nor will they be able to ensure the safety of the president or prime minister should either wish to participate in such ceremonies. Imagine the street battles in the alleys of Sajiyeh and Beit Hanun, in the Gaza Strip, transferred to the ancient streets of Jerusalem, which today teem with Jews. Think about how bar-mitzvah ceremonies or wedding pictures could be held at the Western Wall, or even plain old visits to place a note in the cracks, if Palestinians "controlled" the area a few hundred meters away."
  • Jerusalem is too interwoven to be neatly divided Tim McGirk. "Jerusalem Divided". Time. 21 Nov. 2007 - "In 2000 President Bill Clinton, as part of a set of "parameters" he laid out for ending the conflict, proposed a legal split of the city, with Israel handing the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem over to Palestinian rule. Such a formula presupposes that Jerusalem is capable of a neat division. But it is not. Somehow, any separation of the city into component parts has to recognize that there are myriad economic and cultural links among political adversaries. Moreover, the monuments and shrines of the Old City attract visitors from all over the world: Muslims who want to worship at al-Aqsa Mosque; Jews seeking to pray at the Western Wall; Christians keen to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or follow the Stations of the Cross. Try as one might, it is not possible to count out the lanes of the Old City so that each of them is controlled by only one faith, one ethnicity. (Clinton proposed "shared functional sovereignty" for the Old City.) Dividing Jerusalem, says Daniel Seidemann, a lawyer and expert on Jerusalem affairs, is "a political impossibility and a historical inevitability. It will take microsurgery, and I'm afraid the politicians will go at it with a hatchet."


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Claims: Do Israel and Palestine have equally valid claims to Jerusalem?

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Yes

  • Jerusalem can be shared; it need not be "divided". It has been a Palestinian position that Jerusalem can "remain the capital of Israel" and can "remain undivided". This is a as long as that does not preclude the Palestinians from also having their capital in a "shared" city.[1]
  • Israel misgoverns East Jerusalem; Palestinians should self-govern. Tim McGirk. "Jerusalem Divided". Time. 21 Nov. 2007 - "In a Jerusalem telephone book, for example, maps of Arab neighborhoods are blank, like unexplored parts of the Amazon in the 19th century. That's because no Arab sits on the municipal committee that chooses street names. On the rare occasion when the committee bothers with East Jerusalem, it is to irritate the Arabs by naming a few streets after Israeli war heroes. Mail is seldom delivered there, and having no street names adds to the Arabs' perception that in Israeli society they are either invisible, nonexistent or branded terrorists."


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No

  • Neither party has a better claim to Jerusalem; status quo is best. Neither party to the conflict has a superior historical claim to Jerusalem. A common situation in international disputes, the ideal response should be to settle with the status quo, as this is the most stable move.
  • Israel governs Palestinians in Jerusalem well and democratically Israel governs East Jerusalem as well as it can. It should be noted that it offers the opportunity for Palestinians to become representatives of their local communities, but that Palestinians reject this opportunity out of fear of being seen as sympathizing with the enemy. They shirk the opportunity to govern themselves and inflame tensions with Israel. They are, therefore, largely responsible for the poor state of East Jerusalem. Israel should not be held solely responsible.
  • The idea that Jerusalem could be shared as opposed to divided or solely Israeli is not practical. If all Jerusalem becomes the capital of both Israel and Palestine, this would create all sorts of potential problems. For example, if a baby is born in a shared Jerusalem, will its civic nationality be Israeli or Palestinian? And if an act is committed in Jerusalem which one nation's government recognises as a crime but the other doesn't, who decides what should be done? Different countries sharing a disputed territory but not dividing it is very illogical, even more so if that territory is the capital of both. Imagine what would have happened if the UK, France,and the USA decided to share Berlin with the USSR instead of dividing it!
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International law: Should Jerusalem be divided, according to international law?

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Yes

  • Jerusalem was intended by the UN to be a joint capital The League of Nations and United Nations initially established Jerusalem as an "international" city. The intention was to hold the city as an international "trust" until the Palestinians could stand on their own feet, establish a state, and establish a joint capital with Israel in Jerusalem.
  • Countries do not recognize Jerusalem as Israeli capital. Almost all countries keep their diplomatic missions in Tel-Aviv today and do not consider Jerusalem the official capital of Israel.[2]


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No


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Israeli society: Would dividing Jerusalem devastate Israeli society?

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Yes


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No

  • Sharing Jerusalem is forbidden under Israeli law. In 1980, Israel's parliament, the Knesset, passed the "Basic Law". This proclaimed, "Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel." This makes it unlawful, under Israeli law, to now divide Jerusalem and share it as a joint capital with a Palestinian state.[4]


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Economics: Would dividing Jerusalem be economical?

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Yes

  • Splitting Jerusalem will establish needed peace for economic growth. Without peace, it is impossible for Jerusalem to thrive economically as it should. If splitting Jerusalem is the best way to establish peace, then it is also the best way to stimulate economic growth.



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No

  • A divided Jerusalem would be less viable economically. Dividing a city in two means cutting off commerce between the two sides. It means cutting markets in half, reducing the market of suppliers for consumers and consumers for suppliers by 50%. This is highly problematic for a city that aims to become an global center.



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Pro/con resources:

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Yes


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No

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