Do We Divide The Holiest Holy City?
There’s only one solution to the current crisis and that is for a process of re-education to begin among Palestinians that can prepare them for statehood and democracy and a real understanding of what it is to live in the modern world and have a relationship with their Jewish neighbors. A denazification period was required in Germany before the country could be handed over. The brainwashing of the Palestinian people by the Palestinian Authority has been so rampant and so corrupting that we would need at least five years.
But what I foresee is that Israel is going to be pressured into making all kinds of land concessions and this will lead to war, not peace. I don’t see anything that resembles any kind of historic reconciliation. I see only two opponents, one of whom has been giving things up again and again while the other has not changed its rhetoric or demands. If you take away Jerusalem, you would be tearing the living heart out of Israel; I don’t remember reading about Tel Aviv in the Bible.
was born in 1954 in Nablus and is the former president of Bir Zeit University, where he lectures in cultural studies. In 2003, as a representative of the leftist Palestine People’s Party, he served as the Palestinian National Authority’s labor minister. Khatib directs the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center and co-founded bitterlemons.org, an online Palestinian-Israeli political magazine. He lives in Ramallah.
I worked in Jerusalem for years but, when restrictions began on the movement of Palestinians into Jerusalem in the early 1990s, it became difficult to go there and now it is impossible. Since 2001, I never go unless I get invited to meet with a foreign delegation or something like that. Before the checkpoints, driving from my home in Ramallah to my office in Jerusalem took 10 to 15 minutes. Now it ranges from an hour and a half when I have a permit to infinity when I don’t.
To get a permit, there has to be a reason. For example, if I have an appointment at a hospital or an invitation from a foreign consulate, I send an application for a permit for the specific hours of the meeting and accompany it with the invitation. It doesn’t always work, though. It takes one week to get the permit and sometimes the invitation comes just two days before the meeting. Twice, I failed to get a permit in time to meet with Tony Blair.
There are only two options for Jerusalem that I can live with. The first is if we go back to the 1967 borders and divide Jerusalem so that the eastern part—legally part of the occupied territories—becomes the capital of the Palestinian territories and the western part, which legally belongs to Israel, becomes the capital of Israel. The second option would be to keep the city unified and allow free access to Palestinians and Israelis and allow each side to have this unified city as its capital.
At the same time, political sovereignty and legal sovereignty should not automatically follow religious beliefs. If a Jewish holy site happens to be in an area that is legally Palestinian, then it has to be under Palestinian sovereignty, but it should be under Jewish management. And if there is a Muslim holy place that happens to be on the Israeli side of the legal border, then the Palestinians should accept that it has to be under Israeli sovereignty but the Israelis have to allow Palestinian Muslims free access and management. I think this is acceptable to most Palestinians.
Of course there are details to be worked out; a joint governance system could be in charge, like a joint municipal council with Palestinian government offices in East Jerusalem and Israeli offices in West Jerusalem. There have been lots of attempts to draft such arrangements. There’s no lack of studies and plans.
is a journalist and television producer, and the former director of the Palestinian Peace Coalition/Geneva Peace Initiative. He is now its media advisor. A lifelong East Jerusalemite, he was spokesman for the Palestine National Authority’s Ministry of the Interior.
To me, Jerusalem means not only the past but the future.
Though I am not the kind of Christian who goes to church every Sunday, the mere fact of living minutes from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and a few miles from the Nativity Church in Bethlehem gives me a sense of being special, certainly when I see tourists coming from all corners of the universe to visit my city. But on top of all of this, Jerusalem is important for me as the city of the Al Aqsa mosque and the political capital of the future independent state of Palestine that I hope will finally emerge.