The struggle over East Jerusalem between Israelis and Palestinians, as everyone would agree, is tied to a larger issue. The bottom layer is the creation of a genuine Palestinian state - a state that is both fully sovereign and viable. The viability requirement implies that the Palestinian state, existing alongside Israel, has to meet the test of contiguity. This means, among other things, that the present fragmentation of the West Bank has to be undone. It follows that the present-day dismemberment of that territory into fragments and sectors should be done away with. All roads coming from and leading to every place should be accessible to all inhabitants; all roadblocks, manned or unmanned, should be removed and the separation wall should be taken down, as it splits up Palestinian land, and the West Bank and the Gaza Strip need to be connected by tunnels. All of this falls under the heading of contiguity, hence, viability.
Evidently, the second issue is East Jerusalem itself, and the issues here are even more pressing. On the one hand, losing East Jerusalem would for Israel be as painful as an amputation; on the other hand, no Palestinian state would ever become viable without East Jerusalem being part of it. In 2005, the European Union (EU) ministers of foreign affairs, who at times though not frequently, enough come to good decisions, requested that their ambassadors in Tel Aviv, as well as their representatives in Ramallah, produce a thorough study on the question of the viability of a Palestinian state, with and without East Jerusalem. The ambassadors and the representatives came forward with a resounding consensus: East Jerusalem is vital and indispensable for a Palestinian state to function. That was an unpleasant message; at least that is why the EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Javier Solana thought it would be wisest to put that report away in the farthermost drawer in his study. But thanks to the Guardian it became public.The Picture in East Jerusalem Is Clear
The picture in East Jerusalem is clear, and the discussions at the "Jerusalem: Coalitions for Peace and Justice" conference have made it even clearer. What is going on is a process of de-Arabization of the city which is concurrently getting fenced in and sealed off from the West Bank. And this, I presume, not only raises the question of a Palestinian state's viability; it also raises the issue of the lack of readiness of the Arab League member states to accept a peace accord that leaves the holy sites of Islam in East Jerusalem under full Israeli control. Here we should remember the widely appreciated peace proposals advanced by the Arab League in 2002 and reaffirmed in 2007, to which the Israeli government has not even responded.
An analysis of the East Jerusalem issue must also take into account the fact that after its unilateral annexation to Israel in 1967, Israel has redrawn the city's borders so as to incorporate large areas of the neighboring West Bank into Jerusalem. It could, therefore, be tempting for Israeli negotiators to offer parts of this expanded area to the Palestinians so that they are enabled to establish their capital in East Jerusalem. Such a proposal has already been made, but would clearly not meet Palestinian demands.
Another point to make about East Jerusalem proper relates to Camp David 2000. A lot of nonsense has been written and said about what happened there and what President Bill Clinton said, but to dispel any confusion, one should read the reports by Robert Malley, Clinton's special assistant for Arab-Israeli affairs, who was sitting at the table next to Clinton and really knows what happened there and what did not. At Camp David 2000, the concept was established to divide East Jerusalem into two segments: Arab neighborhoods would be assigned to the state of Palestine; Jewish ones would remain under Israeli control. Since 2000, the de-Arabization of East Jerusalem has been progressing at an accelerated pace. And, as a result, applying the Camp David 2000 formula now would be much more disadvantageous to the Palestinians than it already was a decade ago. The application of such a formula now would not only reward the ongoing land-grabbing after the year 2000; it would also lead to a Palestinian state with the capital in chattels. So, trying to achieve peace along these lines is, in my view, just "mission impossible."Europe's Responsibility
I am a Christian; at least I try to be, and it is horrible, awful, to see day by day what is happening in the land where our savior was born, grew up, preached, suffered and died. Moreover, Europe is highly responsible for what has happened and has been happening there and Europe does not act according to its responsibilities.
Why is Europe responsible? There are two dimensions to this responsibility. First, there is what happened after World War I and already before. The European colonial powers, Britain and France, carved out the Ottoman Empire, with hardly any feelings for the problems and the circumstances of the people who lived in those regions. They just took a map and parceled out the Middle East among themselves. The end result was that all the states that emerged in later decades have achieved independence, except for the Province of Palestine. Without these European interventions there after World War I, history would have certainly taken another course - no one knows which one, but a different one; that's for sure.
The second dimension of European responsibility is most strikingly the Holocaust. The Holocaust took place in Europe, and it is too simplistic to say that it is a matter only of German concern. Already long before the 20th century, there was a lot of anti-Semitism in Europe and elsewhere. Yes, the Germans are the main culprits of the unspeakable disaster that occurred, but, from the works of historians, we all know to what extent in Holland we, the Dutchmen, failed to protect the Jews as much as we should have. It is a European debt and a European responsibility that is on the table; that is shameful.
European responsibility that is on the table; that is shameful. We do know that the events of 1946-48 would not have occurred the way they did had history taken another course. It is like carrying water to the sea and arrows to Athens to say that we Europeans were highly instrumental in letting history take this course and, now, we just accept it and do nothing about the consequences. And that is the deepest motivation, so profoundly embedded in justice that I am blaming Europe so much for failing to draw the consequences with regard to the subject that brings us together here. It is a shame, a shame on Europe.
The dimension is that the Christian man, the ashamed European, is the man of the law in his entire being. The State of Israel is not the only wrongdoer; we are as just as responsible. But the State of Israel keeps violating international law in so many ways and so frequently and so seriously that any lawyer who is really devoted and dedicated to his profession cannot remain silent - UN resolutions, international justice about the separation wall and the Geneva conventions, all together make up a lot of international law that is being violated.
Israel all the time tries to affiliate itself with Europe as much it possibly can and more. Why is there a European song festival with Israel as a participant? This is nonsense, but this example shows the desire of Israel to be as European as possible and, over the past decades, the State of Israel has developed into a kind of member state of the EU, without voting rights. And that makes me doubly ashamed of what Israel is doing and not doing, since it hurts me as a European and it hurts Europe. It hurts the reputation of Europe throughout the world.What Europeans Can Do
What Europeans could and, hence, should do is the following: The Europeans, who up until recently have been at least lazy, if not cowardly, tend to hide behind Washington, by giving excuses that they have not got any tools or power to do anything. But we Europeans do have the EUIsrael Association Treaty, which gives Israel very far-reaching privileges in the massive and vast European market, and the economy of Israel is so dependent upon making progress in that market through its exports, thanks to these privileges. If some of the privileges were to be stopped for a while, it would hurt Israel enormously, and that can be done. Article 2 of the European-Israeli accord states that the implementation of the partnership can be suspended as soon as one of the parties violates human rights or international law. Pursuant to that article, the EU could have suspended the accord the very day after it was signed, but nothing happened and still nothing is happening. European politicians have started talking about "upgrading" the relationship, making it even nicer for Israel. And this took place to mark the 60th anniversary of the birth of the State of Israel at the request of Israeli government.
My last point is as follows: An interesting new group in Washington called J Street has been doing some very important work. There is also a European group whose leading force is Chris Patten - former governor of Hong Kong and later EU commissioner for external relations. However, not very much comes out of this European group. It is slow and indecisive, but, if something happens, I will be contributing strongly to the group by becoming active and doing everything possible to make the group come out with a statement as strong as is needed on Israeli-Palestinian affairs. Here, at least, is a perspective, a ray of hope. The Americans are eager for European incentives, so the Europeans have a much greater responsibility than they realized when they started to get involved in this issue. We can, to a certain extent help the Americans to find ways to move forward.