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A roundtable discussion on this subject took place in Jerusalem under the auspices of the Palestine-Israel Journal, with the participation of four leading Jerusalemites:
Dr. Mahdi-Abdul Hadi, founding member and head of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA);
Dr. Meron Benvenisti, author, researcher and former head of the West Bank Data Project;
Professor Naomi Chazan (MK, Meretz), former director of the Truman Institute at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; and
Ibrahim Dakkak, civil engineer, former chair of the Arab Thought Forum and a member of the board of the Higher Islamic Committee.
The moderator was Robin Twite, a former director of the British Council in Israel and other countries, who has been working on conflict resolution at the Hebrew University, and is involved with the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information.

Robin Twite: Let's start from the ideal: What should Jerusalem be like in 10 years' time? All of us present are lovers of Jerusalem. How then has it come about that the quality of life is not improving and that it is a center of anger and hostility?

Mahdi Abdul-Hadi: From the Palestinian perspective, we have to rectify the damage Jerusalem is facing today and will be facing in the future. I wonder whether there will or will not be a solution to the problem of Jerusalem.

Meron Benvenisti: The game of solutions for Jerusalem is boring and futile. You can list all the excellent solutions proposed for Jerusalem over the last 50 or 60 years, and look where we are now. Sometimes I think the more solutions aired, the more violent the conflict. Rather than debating theoretical solutions which can never be implemented, we can try to seek remedies for today and tomorrow for existing symptoms. This will be a more profitable exercise.
The city is today tom by strife both because of its importance and because of the friction between two strong and vital communities living side by side and creating the symptoms of hatred and violence.
I think it will always be like that. Even if we find a way to resolve the macro-national issue, we will never be able to resolve the ethnic friction, the micro-friction. After Oslo there are two legitimate collective entities liv¬ing in Jerusalem. A process of reconciliation should be based on granting equal and collective rights to both communities, at least on the local level. Postponing for the future the question of the sovereignty of Jerusalem, let us deal in micro terms with the creation of two municipalities providing equal services, founded on the collective equality to which both sides aspire.

Ibrahim Dakkak: We have started to talk about Jerusalem without defining what we mean by it and whether we hold the same perception of what Jerusalem is. Are we talking about the Old City, the Arab part of the city, the Israeli part of the city, the two parts together, the city within the munic¬ipal boundaries, metropolitan Jerusalem?
In response to Meron's description of the conflict in Jerusalem being communal, I am inclined to believe that the conflict is in part so, but in no way can it be seen as only so. The political dimension of the issue cannot be glossed over. It is and will continue to be the crux of the Palestinian¬-Israeli conflict. Therefore, to defer decision on the sovereignty over Jerusalem may serve to gain time, but the cost will be so high that neither of the two parties will find it easy to foot the bill.
On the other hand, taking into account the interests of the Islamic world and the other interested parties, like the Vatican, the complexity of the issue will definitely intensify and multiply. Jerusalem can in no way be divorced from the Middle East and the Mediterranean countries and many other parts of the world. Accordingly, cosmetic changes in the form of the establishment of two municipal administrations, or equalizing the status of the two parties and ignoring Palestinian sovereignty over the eastern part of the city will prove to be misleading and dangerous at the same time. The peace process may falter on the threshold of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem will continue to be one of the keys to war and peace, stability and instability in the region. The fantasy that some Israelis hold over an over-stretched Jerusalem extending from the Jordan Valley to the 1967 bor¬ders of Israel and dividing the West Bank into two parts, is but a call for intensifying and perpetuating the conflict.

Naomi Chazan: Though Jerusalem is mostly inhabited by two national communities, I agree with Ibrahim that in many respects Jerusalem goes beyond the Arab-Israeli conflict or the Palestinian-Israeli relationship - I am not even sure I want to call it a conflict now - because it has regional and international connotations. The Holy See has interests in Jerusalem. Everyone has an interest in the city, that is its nature.
But the problem is first and foremost political. Therefore, in direct response to Meron, we will have to deal with the sovereignty question. In order to begin developing a new norm of sharing Jerusalem, which is absolutely necessary, the first step is to do everything possible not to allow any changes on the ground that will alter the very delicate balance existing in the city at the moment. A change of the status quo because of Israeli control will automati¬cally change the possibilities and prospects for sharing Jerusalem in the future.
Second, we must take steps to equalize as much as possible the gross inequality which has developed over the last 27 years - in infrastructure, in facilities, in building permits, etc. I agree with Meron that one has to start building alternative administrative frameworks to the present ones, at this stage from the bottom up.
One possibility is a series of autonomous neighborhoods (I do not like the terminology) or even a Palestinian municipality for certain areas. I do not want to get caught in the trap of going back to the borough system [mayor Teddy Kollek proposed giving the different boroughs a degree of municipal autonomy - Ed.]. There is nothing without political ramifica¬tions and there also has to be a political objective.

Mahdi Abdul-Hadi: I am afraid we are trying to take Jerusalem out of its con¬text. It would be worth focusing on the simple triangle that covers the issue in terms of the land, the people and their rights. Jerusalem involves inter¬connected and inseparable dimensions in terms of history, culture, religion, nationalism, politics and people. It is very wrong to separate these dimensions.
East Jerusalem, Arab Jerusalem, is an integral part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). It is the core of the geographic and demo¬graphic integrity of the territories. We must start by rectifying the current damage done to East Jerusalem's land, its people and their rights: land con¬fiscation, Israeli settlements, denying the Palestinians normal growth in housing, institutions, demography and external connections. Palestinian-¬Israeli coexistence must start with mutual recognition, acknowledgment and the acceptance that they must share the city.
The Israeli right-wing policy is very clear: a united Israel and united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. The Palestinian perspective is that of an open city with divided sovereignty.

Ibrahim Dakkak: What city are you talking about?

Mahdi Abdul-Hadi: The whole city of Jerusalem, East and West, where Palestinians still own about 26 percent of the property (in West Jerusalem). Israeli policies, in both parts of the city, must be frozen. I agree with the idea of not following up the borough system. Palestinians see East Jerusalem as an integral part of the OPT. This explains the continuous tug-of-war in Arab Jerusalem between the Israeli establishment and the people of the Intifada, over who has authority and control. It is the future capital of the Palestinian state. To rectify the dam¬age, we need to reestablish our institutions, such as a municipality and a network of neighborhood councils neither connected with nor governed by the Israeli municipality, but linked to a future independent Palestinian municipality. Palestinians do not consider themselves as Israelis and are not part of Israeli society. This is a starting point for normal commu¬nity growth and community rights. Palestinians must establish their own independent institu¬tions and infrastructure and then meet face to face with their neigh¬bors in the other parts of the city to coordinate their work.

Robin Twite: What have the Palestinians in Jerusalem done to organize themselves so as to repre¬sent what they really want to the Israelis?

Mahdi Abdul-Hadi: On one level, there have been several attempts in recent years to maintain an independent Palestinian presence in the city, by establishing a "Jerusalem National Council," or "Jerusalem Arab Council," in the eastern part of the city. There are about 160,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem and over 200 institutions. They need a national umbrella.
On another level, the broad and overall linkage between Jerusalem and the rest of the OPT should be maintained because East Jerusalem is the cen¬ter for the rest of the territories. Without this center and this capital address, there is no meaning to the OPT.

Robin Twite: The Israeli process of changing the status quo in Jerusalem seems accepted in Israeli society as if "it belongs to us." What can we do about it?

Meron Benvenisti: That question should have been asked in 1968 and not in 1995. Don't kid yourself: there is no room in Jerusalem anymore. It is a question of space. Mayor Ehud Olmert's plans are outside, way outside Jerusalem. What is Jerusalem for the Jews is Beit Sahur for the Arabs. It is Jerusalem only according to Israeli planning or political decisions.
For Palestinians, Jerusalem is the Old City. For the Jews it is now an area of 123,000 dunums; for the Palestinians, Jerusalem is only 6,000 dunums, namely the Old City and the area that was Jordanian until June 4, 1967. Everything else is the West Bank. Israeli talk about the 1995 "sta¬tus quo" is ridiculous in Palestinian eyes - it merely legitimizes every¬thing that has happened since 1967. To say that things must be frozen now is totally unaccept¬able. Mahdi speaks of rectifying the situation, not legitimizing the status quo. The disparity in power relationships creates a sit¬uation in which all the responsi¬bility rests with the Israelis. I don't know how we are going to rectify this.

Mahdi Abdul-Hadi: You agreed that the Old City and Arab Jerusalem are totally different from the Jerusalem the Israelis are talking about. It is a different society and a different area, separated by a large gap. Since the Intifada, the Green Line has been the border in terms of social, political and psychological rela¬tions between the two peoples. Recognition must now be given to both societies, both lands and both cities bearing the same name. The 13 Jewish settlements now surrounding Jerusalem have to be balanced out. Divided Jerusalem has clear demarcation lines, psychological, geopoliti¬cal and cultural, that separate the Palestinians from Israelis.
For example, next to the settlement of French Hill is the Wadi Joz area. Are Palestinians allowed to move the Shu'fat refugee camp and build housing units and services in a new neighborhood there? We could balance the demo¬graphic dimension in this part of the city.

Ibrahim Dakkak: The call for parity under the prevailing conditions is devoid of seriousness. The established pre-defined objective of the Israeli government and the Jerusalem municipality to establish a Jewish majori¬ty, not only in the western part of the city, but in the entire city; and the officially adopted proportion of the population of Jerusalem which calls for two-thirds Jews and for one-third "non-Jews"- all this is in itself an evidence that parity is not on the Israeli agenda. The only method left for the Palestinians, under the present Israeli policy, is to cause instability by revolting against the Israeli discriminatory policy in Jerusalem.
On the other hand, the two contradictory claims by the Palestinians and Israelis that Jerusalem is, or will be, the eternal capital of either one of the two parties while denying the other party any rights, will produce a zero-¬sum result with which no party will be satisfied.

Naomi Chazan: Two terms being used here are not interchangeable: "rectification" and "not worsening" the situation. We are in a retrogressive cycle and the question is how to halt it, not necessarily in terms of rectification. Israelis must understand that one-third of the population is not Israeli but Palestinian, and doesn't want to live under Israeli rule. The proportions have not changed, by the way, and there has, I think, been a slight rise in the Palestinian percentage in Jerusalem since 1967.

Mahdi Abdul-Hadi: When you talk of one-third, are you including the whole city?

Naomi Chazan: The whole city. One-third of the present municipal borders is inhabited by Palestinians. Any notion of the redivision of Jerusalem into East and West is technically impossible and politically virtually impossi¬ble. Therefore the city will remain undivided. Without parity, it will be well-nigh impossible to reach anything livable in the city. Because of the gross power disparity, the core of the problem is political.

Mahdi Abdul-Hadi: I do not think we should dismiss the possibility of having East and West Jerusalem as a shared city - not a united city but an open city. I cannot conceive of the idea of a united city under a particular sovereignty or authority.

Naomi Chazan: I said it is physically impossible to divide the city.

Mahdi Abdul-Hadi: Instead of the term "undivided", why not say "an open city?"

Meron Benvenisti: As long as we know we are talking of a physically undi¬vided entity, the question of municipal or even political arrangements is not contradictory to the notion of "physically undivided."

Mahdi Abdul-Hadi: East Jerusalem is in our view part of the OPT. If you claim that it is also part of a united city, how can I see the relationship? No passing authority, regardless of the "sovereignty" it may claim, can suc¬ceed in changing the character and identity of the Arab city of Jerusalem.

Meron Benvenisti: If you don't want closure, then the place is physically undivided, with free movement of people and goods and the city will func¬tion as one from an urban point of view. Leave the question of manage¬ment aside because that is political, even on the local level. If that is your definition of "open", then "undivided" is the same.

Robin Twite: The problem is that the term "undivided city" has become associated in the minds of Palestinians with the idea of a city united under the Israelis. This is not necessarily true.

Mahdi Abdul-Hadi: That is why I used the term" open city" with no walls separating its various neighborhoods and yet not "united" under Israeli authority and control.

Robin Twite: But "open city" is also a tech¬nical term, meaning something quite differ¬ent in law, a city which is not defended. This is a semantic problem but we need another term. What you mean is a city without barri¬ers, customs, etc.

Naomi Chazan: This is precisely the point, no walls or barriers. We have to start unpacking Jerusalem. This is crucial. When Israelis refer to Jerusalem now, it has some semi-mythical definition. If you ask an Israeli, even a Jerusalemite, where is Beit Hanina - and it is part of the Jerusalem municipal boundary - many people do not have the faintest idea. Beit Hanina is holy? What is holy in Beit Hanina to Jews? Or Gilo as another example.
To unpack it we have to bring it down to earth, to demystify it. Jerusalem is not some super-creation which must be protected at all costs. Rather, it is a living city with a hinterland. For Palestinians, the only real hinterland is the West Bank. In terms of economic institutions, Jerusalem is the most important Palestinian city. Though symbolically significant, it is not the most important Israeli city. In terms of daily life, Tel Aviv is the most important. A dialogue is difficult because essentially one is combating myths and symbols, not real facts and figures.

Meron Benvenisti: People think of the arbitrary one-third - two-thirds and for the Israelis it is important in terms of majority and minority: 72 percent Israelis, 28 percent Palestinians. This is because the orders have been drawn that way. Palestinians can say they are an absolute majority in their Jerusalem, which is the Old City and East Jerusalem. So there is a dou¬ble minority issue, which is similar to other places.
One constructive suggestion is to draw a line in which both sides will have demographic parity, if it's a question of where to draw the line. Facts on the ground have created for the Palestinians problems that are almost strangling them. Maybe it would be advisable to redraw Jerusalem and include almost equal numbers of Jews and Arabs.

Robin Twite: That idea was put forward by Moshe Amirav and Hanna Siniora. They wanted a greater Jerusalem which would include many existing Palestinian villages currently outside the city so as to obtain demo¬graphic parity.

Naomi Chazan: You could also narrow down Jerusalem and create the parity.

Meron Benvenisti: I agree there are other possibilities. Divide Jerusalem and say it is a divided city. The whole notion that we are discussing a united city is a fallacy. It is not a united city. Solve the problem by cutting it in half, except that you are just postponing the problem because of the West Bank. But what will happen to Gilo? And what will be the future of the West Bank?
But the urban phenomenon, the urban definition of Jerusalem, of greater Jerusalem, is not mythical but real. That is how a geographer from Mars would define the met¬ropolitan area of Jerusalem. Miraculously, in that area we have an equal number of Jews and Arabs. This delegitimizes existing Israeli settlements. If you enlarge the cake you can redivide it and create enough communal power for the 160,000 Palestinians that will be based on larger numbers.
As for the rest of the West Bank, this takes us back to my basic pes¬simistic approach that there will be no final solution to the West Bank. Basically we are talking about a binational entity, something the Israelis will not accept. Perhaps, therefore, a solution based on a total partition of Israel and Palestine is wrong and we must look to the minority recom¬mendations of the U.N. in 1947: a federated Palestine which also has a fed¬erated capital.

Ibrahim Dakkak: In a way, psychologically at least, we are talking about a cor¬pus separatum (separate political body). Even from the Israeli point of view, Jerusalem is not treated like Tel Aviv; we Palestinians are not treating Jerusalem as a continuation of the West Bank. We are actually looking at Jerusalem as a special problem. I am not referring to the 1947 corpus separatum, but in a sense there is something leading in this direction, that of different treatment.

Meron Benvenisti: Even the borders of the corpus separatum were very similar to the municipal area.

vMahdi Abdul-Hadi: As a Palestinian, I am not sharing West Jerusalem. The Israelis have been sharing my East Jerusalem the whole time and now they arc becoming equal there in terms of numbers. In addition, Palestinians within the walls of the Old City suffer from sub-standard living conditions and the absence of freedom for communal development.

Meron Benvenisti: Suppose you have Israel-Palestine from the river to the sea, with two communities. Both will have autonomous institutions and they will find a way to cooperate. Then Jerusalem will become a federated capital.
Based on Zionism, I know that Israelis will not accept this. But maybe we are not in a Zionist age, maybe we are beyond that or will be when a solution presents itself 50 years from now, to both sides. We had our state, maybe the Palestinians will have theirs - and we will decide that this nationalism has brought a plague on both our houses.

Naomi Chazan: We are in a process of disengagement and in order to achieve a confederation you first have to have two separate entities.
The immediate step is political disengagement and the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Then the federated Palestine, maybe larg¬er than the Mandatorial boundaries, would arise. What will be in Jerusalem relates to a concept of an open and not a closed peace.

Mahdi Abdul-Hadi: The Palestinian aspiration is clearly for an indepen¬dent Palestinian state, two societies on an equal footing, two peoples and two cultures sharing the land of Palestine-Israel. The peace process started at Oslo is now facing a major crisis because Rabin is stalling; the Palestinian reaction, on the other hand, is to look forward to a new chapter in the rela¬tionship with the Israelis. We have been through the periods of steadfast¬ness till 1972, then isolation till 1982, from 1987 the Intifada, in the 1990's negotiations, and now we are building a Palestinian Authority.
If these chapters do not realize Palestinian aspirations, the new stage might be that of military resistance. Small military operations by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad might start recruiting from the mainstream and launch a new chapter. Maybe that is what will happen in Jerusalem now. It is a divided city and one of fear. The duty of the Palestinians is now to garner support for the agenda of a national address in Jerusalem, linkage with the West Bank and to open a dialogue on sharing the city. We are not put off by nega¬tive comments from the Israeli government. We are not an underground movement or government; we are civilians with needs to keep our society functioning.

Ibrahim Dakkak: We are speaking about several borders of Jerusalem. Continuously spreading Jerusalem means there will be no solution what¬soever. In such a case we will be talking on the future of the West Bank annexed to Israel under the name of Jerusalem. If on the other hand we speak of parity, we cannot postpone the question of sovereignty over that part of Jerusalem we call Arab or East Jerusalem. We can have sover¬eignty over our part and the Israelis over theirs and then we can have some sort of municipal con¬federation. We must continue our discussion on the city as a whole within the 1967 borders, while' other areas should be considered part of the West Bank.

Naomi Chazan: It is essential now to halt any serious change in the topography and demography of Jerusalem. We in Meretz and some segments of Labor are committed on issues like Har Homa - no building must take place unless a Palestinian neighborhood is developed at the same pace alongside the Jewish. Orient House can become a Palestinian embassy if it wants or a Palestinian center. Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem must remain open and operating.

Robin Twite: We must not lose sight of the actual physical environment of the city and the danger of each side trying to increase its population through more and more building. In the south this looks as if it may link Bethlehem physically to Jerusalem, whereas a normal environmental development would leave a green belt there, instead of having people drive from Jerusalem to Bethlehem without seeing a single field. On the Palestinian side, we do not want to see concrete blocks marching up the Mount of Olives. Because politics is put first, the city may become a victim of politics and very difficult to live in.

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