How Economic, Legal and Security Issues Affect the Future of Jerusalem

Posted on Tue, Jan 23, 2007 @ 04:13 PM
A prosperous and peaceful Palestinian entity could only benefit both Palestinians and Israelis.

palestinian market in the old city of  Jerusalem Economic arguments against sharing Jerusalem with a future Palestinian state have no support based on present or foreseeable conditions. There is no threat to the economic growth of the Israeli economy.

Indeed, a resolution of the Jerusalem Question could only improve the economic outlook for the city, East and West, considering the influx of international funding that peace would bring, to say nothing of the boom in tourism that would also ensue.

According to Michael Dumper (Politics of Sacred Space, 154–5), under a permanent-status agreement the projected annual number of guests in Jerusalem would rise from 1 million to about 2 million, and overnight stays from about 3 million to 5 million. Shimon Peres has argued for many years that an economically prosperous Palestinian entity could only benefit both Palestinians and Israelis.

It makes sense that, as Ira Sharkansky has noted, “the motive forces of Jerusalem policymaking are more likely to be national and religious than a seeking-after economic advantage” (Governing Jerusalem, Again on The World’s Agenda, 17).

As to legal reasons for the impasse over the city, the issues are more complex, and as several authorities have pointed out, there is no simple answer to them on either side. However, the baseline for final negotiations with respect to certain key legal issues regarding Jerusalem has been set. In the 1993 Declaration of Principles, both sides agreed to be bound by UN resolutions 242 and 338.

Resolution 242 (22 November 1967) speaks to the situation between Israel and the Arab states following the 1967 war. It mentions the inadmissibility of acquiring territory by war, and the need for a just and lasting peace with security for all states within recognized borders in the region. It calls on Israel to withdraw from territory acquired in the 1967 war and for the Arab states to cease from hostility with all other states in the region.

Resolution 338 (21–2 October 1973) addresses the situation between Israel and the Arab states following the 1973 war. It calls for a cease-fire and the end of all military activity, and for the belligerents to put Resolution 242 into effect and find a just and durable peace. The May 2003 “roadmap” to ending the Arab-Israeli conflict, proposed by the Quartet (UN, U.S., E.U. and Russia), also acknowledges the force of Resolution 1397 (12 March 2002), which recalls the two above resolutions and states the intention of the UN to press for renewal of the peace process and cessation of violence, recognizing the efforts of the Quartet and Saudi Arabia to resolve the conflict.

For many, security concerns would seem to be the main stumbling block in coming to agreement over Jerusalem’s future. Security is normally defined in terms of external security, internal security and public order. The latter is usually a matter of police control over crime in the public sphere. However, both external security, in terms of attack from outside Israel, and internal security, in terms of terrorist activity within Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, are the concern of the IDF.

Israel’s use of the IDF to counter the First and Second Intifadas has placed the army, rather than the police, at the center of public order issues in and around Jerusalem. Thus one possible explanation for Israeli intransigence over resolving the Jerusalem Question is guaranteeing its external and internal security. The security of Jerusalem and its environs is a logical concern for all parties involved in the city’s daily life.

The significance of the Old City as a center of worship for multiple faiths carries security implications because of the possibility of clashes between visitors to the various religious sites. While public order has usually been the issue in such cases, events of the past thirty years have demonstrated the vulnerability and volatility of the area encompassing the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock, the al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Since the Israelis took possession of the Old City in 1967, they have often stated that they will provide adequate security and freedom of access to the holy places for adherents of all faiths. The statement is made whenever there is a suggestion that sovereignty over the holy sites should be shared with others. But this response does not appear to be based on security needs.

An argument for intractability on the part of Israel based on security concerns appears to have little merit. As the single most powerful entity in the Middle East, supported by the United States, Israel is fully capable of defending herself from attack within Jerusalem’s present or foreseeable boundaries.

Image: Jill Granberg. Flickr

Tags: jerusalem, middle east, conflict, israel, Palestine, Israeli, Palestinian

Israeli and Palestinian intransigence over the Jerusalem Question

Posted on Mon, Jan 22, 2007 @ 04:15 PM
Four authorities on the Jerusalem Question concede the answer lies beyond economic, security and legal issues

east jerusalem securityEconomic issues, security considerations and legal concerns all remain unconvincing alternatives in the search for an explanation for Israeli and Palestinian intransigence over the Jerusalem Question (I’ll explain why in detail next time).

Consideration of the cumulative effect of these alternative explanations does not appear warranted either. While there may be a case for Israeli reluctance to negotiate because of security concerns—especially, for example, when there is an increase in suicide attacks focused on Jerusalem—and for Palestinian refusal to negotiate because of military and economic oppression, security issues do not explain the longevity of the Arab-Israeli impasse.

After all, there have been many periods when security concerns have not been so evident. A more convincing explanation must lie elsewhere. Indeed, four authorities on the Jerusalem Question concede as much.

Arguing for contextualization of legal issues within the broader history of the conflict, law professor Ruth Lapidoth told me:

As far as I know, neither economic nor strategic questions are important in the case of Jerusalem.

What is important is the symbolic value of Jerusalem. It is a symbol for many people, and it has strong religious aspects. Historian Bernard Wasserstein, commenting on resolution of the Jerusalem Question and its centrality to settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, said:

It is not primarily a security issue, it is not primarily an issue other than one of symbols, and the symbolic issue, like most symbolic issues, is one that is even more difficult to solve than some of the other issues.

Oslo Accords negotiator, Uri Savir, having already dismissed legal considerations as a fruitful way forward, summarized the possibility of alternative explanations as follows:

I don’t think it is economics. [And] security with the Palestinians is a function of the quality of relations. There will be two states, and these two states need to cooperate on security. . . . We need to prevent an Arab army west of the Jordan River. But by and large, it is not that much of a territorial issue. Jerusalem has its importance mainly as an identity issue, a religious issue, an issue that is really related to our very being.

Savir’s counterpart, Ahmad Quray‘ told me that there are many aspects of the Jerusalem Question that can be successfully negotiated, but there is one that cannot be: sovereignty. Significantly, Quray‘ ties sovereignty to issues of ideology and identity and emphasizes that negotiators must give attention to this matter if a solution is to be found:

The nonnegotiable issue in the conflict over Jerusalem is sovereignty. Sovereignty is not negotiable. Modalities can be negotiated: what kind of security, how to reach the religious places, transportation, taxes—even municipal wards can be negotiated. But the matter of sovereignty is nonnegotiable. We have an ideological solution for that: When I, as a Palestinian, take my car and can go all over Jerusalem—East and West—and feel that it is my city, and the Israeli can take his car and go wherever—East and West—and feel it is his city, and you come from Europe, the United States or any other place and feel that there is a special status to this city and that you are at home—I think then we can have a permanent solution to Jerusalem. Otherwise it will be a time bomb. It can be quiet today, but nobody can guarantee that after some days or some years it will remain that way. This is what the negotiators and the decision makers should take into consideration if they want to find a real solution.

Image: Flickr  Seth Frantz

Tags: jerusalem, arab-israeli conflict, conflict, Middle East Conflict, Israeli, Palestinian

Middle East conflict in more than half of AP's top ten stories of 2006

Posted on Mon, Jan 08, 2007 @ 04:17 PM
With new shifts in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict the impasse has not receded from the front pages
"Is the primary reason that Palestinians and Israelis cannot agree on the city's future a matter of legalities?"

With new shifts in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict including the Hamas-PLO standoff, the strengthening of Fatah’s armed capabilities and a renewed push for peace efforts, the impasse has not receded from the front pages. In 2006, the Associated Press devoted more than half of its top ten stories to the world’s most troubled region.

Already, this year looks set to be no different. At the heart of the region’s impasse is the “City of Peace.” Early in the last century, David Lloyd George termed Jerusalem “the most famous city in the world”—a place that is presently shared by more than 600,000 indigenous inhabitants, three dominant faiths, and the world community—a unique place whose hard-won peace would reverberate for the good of all. Yet peace does not come to the city of peace.

Why not? Is the primary reason that Palestinians and Israelis cannot agree on the city’s future a matter of legalities? Is it for economic reasons that the Israelis cannot relinquish the city? Might it be security threats that prevent agreement? Certainly the history of terror in Jerusalem dictates that the Israelis put security issues at the forefront of their concerns in any renewal of the peace process.

On the other hand, the imposition of Israeli civil and military strictures around Jerusalem has meant the destruction of the continuity of Palestinian life and Palestinian-populated territory between the northern and southern West Bank. For their own security reasons the Palestinians can sustain the argument that possession of East Jerusalem is essential to their survival. But do security issues prevent compromise on the city’s future configuration as capital of both the Israeli and Palestinian states?

From an economic point of view, the city has grown to be the largest conurbation in Israel and/or the West Bank. But does its demographic and geographic size equate with economic strength that cannot be shared? The same Israeli civil and military dislocations that have decimated Palestinian life on the West Bank have seriously disrupted its natural commercial activity and economic prospects.

On the legal front, arguments have been advanced at the international level in support of the rights of both sides to sovereignty over all or part of the city. Interrelated are the moral arguments centered on the right of return for refugees and the legitimate property rights of the dispossessed.

Are any of these arguments compelling enough to preclude negotiated agreement? Next time, what leading Israelis and Palestinians have said about the possible reasons for lack of progress on the Jerusalem Question.

Tags: jerusalem, israeli-palestinian conflict, Middle East Conflict