Conference on Jerusalem – Introduction & Session I: History

Introduction Welcome: Sir Vincent Fean (BP Chair of Trustees) Video Message from HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan

Session I: History Chair: Andrew Whitley (BP Trustee) Keynote Speaker: Avi Shlaim Panellists:Menachem Klein, Mick Dumper, Salim Tamari

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Sir Vincent Fean:

Welcome to this Balfour Project event. More than 850 attendees have registered to be with us today. That’s a tribute to the quality of our speakers and the importance of our chosen theme. Jerusalem is a very special place for all of us. The title of our conference is ‘Jerusalem: from past divisions to a shared future?’, with a question mark. And that question mark is very important. I spent three years in Jerusalem. It was spiritually uplifting and politically headbanging. The Balfour Project charity comes at this issue from an equal rights perspective and with an eye to British responsibility to work for equal rights, which our Government historically has not always done, to put it mildly and diplomatically. I’m an ex-diplomat.

The questions we ask today are: can we establish the facts, the truth of the situation and highlight them – historical, legal, religious, actual?

Second, can we explore the prospects for positive, inclusive change or for more of the same, when more of the same means entrenching inequality?

Third, what should Britain and others say and do to advance equal rights, peaceful coexistence and inclusivity? By Britain I mean Government, Parliament and civil society. All of us, not acting alone, but taking action –  and doing so in concert with like-minded people elsewhere in Europe, in the United States, in Israel, and in Palestine.

But this charity’s work begins at home, raising awareness here in the United Kingdom, and advocating steps by us to advance equal rights there.

In so many ways, Jerusalem is the heart of the matter. That is not to neglect Gaza or the West Bank. Gaza was the theme of our two conferences in Scotland in 2019. Today, our speakers will seek to put Jerusalem back on the table. There will be no solution to this conflict without an inclusive outcome on Jerusalem, sharing the future. We seek the peace of Jerusalem.

Diana Safieh, our excellent Balfour project programmes coordinator and her colleague Edith Perman will run the day, with Edith monitoring the chatbox for your questions, while Diana, whose beautiful and informative conference brochure I commend, available on our web site, will manage the transitions between the sessions. Ian Black will put your questions,  as many as he can, to a panel at 5.20. We can’t answer them all, but Ian will pull together themes and frequent questions.

A full video recording of our day together will be on the Balfour Project website within 24 hours. We would love you to spend your day in our good company. But if you can’t, the recording will be available soon. And a full transcript of the day will be available to read next month.

Now it is my honour to introduce a video message from His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan. A man who cares deeply about Jerusalem. Here is his message to us.

HRH Prince El Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan:

Dear friends of Jerusalem,

I commend the Balfour Project for convening this timely and important conference with its impressive array of speakers, friends of Jerusalem, all. It was Benjamin Disraeli, a Sephardic Jew, converted to Anglicanism and reputedly died a Roman Catholic, who gave us one of the most evocative descriptions of old Jerusalem when he visited in the early years of the 19th century. ‘What need’ he said,’ of cascade and of cataract, the deep green turf, the foliage of the fairest trees, the impenetrable forest, the abounding river, mountains of glacier crest, all sights and sounds of material loveliness? They would not be observed as the eyes seized on Calvary and Zion, the gates of Bethlehem and Damascus, the Hill of Titus, the Mosque of Muhammad, peace be upon him, and the tomb of Christ. The view of Jerusalem is the history of the world. It is more, it is the history of earth and heaven’.

It is a history that is also deeply entwined with that of my own family. As Sharif of Mecca and King of Hejaz, my great-grandfather, Sharif Hussein, presided over the principal routes of pilgrimage. Respect for each other’s Holy places was an ingrained tradition of hospitality and watering and sanctuary. This hereditary duty directly links Mecca with the Glorious Esplanade and the Holy sites.

I want to say that leaping forward, for the sake of brevity that Jerusalem, the city, may have been holy to the three great monotheistic religions simultaneously for 13 centuries, but tragically, despite long periods during which Jerusalemites lived peacefully with their neighbours, immigrants of many nationalities and pilgrims, as can be seen in Felix Bonfils’ early photographs of the inhabitants, side-by-side without concern for the differences in religion, sect, or origin, this has not proved a consolidating factor. On the contrary, at times, it has exacerbated political differences.

Even now, the holiness of the city does not ensure an agreed solution for its future. Only the legal arguments offer a dispassionate and neutral route out of the labyrinth. A counterbalance to the parties and nature of the political polemic and the dogmatic quality of so much of the religious debate.

If we should never forget Jerusalem’s religious and heritage status –  and I recall the wonderful bird’s-eye view of Jerusalem, highlighting its global significance by the Flemish painter, engraver, and mapmaker Frans Hogenberg in 1575, including mosque, church and synagogue – we should also bear in mind that the city is also a temporal entity, inhabited by real human beings whose basic human dignity has already been relentlessly eroded by politics. Unfortunately, the situation has been deteriorating rapidly in recent times.

May I conclude these few remarks by saying that I have been a lifelong friend of the United Kingdom. I deeply admire its fundamental values and principles, including the upholding of the rule of law. Speaking as a friend, I should add that though British interest in Jerusalem has not always translated into attention to the well-being and equal treatment of all Jerusalem’s residents, today owing to exclusive policies, the fate of the city concerns us all with its rich social fabric, a city that means so much to the peoples of the Abrahamic faiths and to the whole world.

Through this message of goodwill, of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence, I would like to speak above all to the online audience and those who will follow these proceedings, to those concerned British people who worry about current negative trends and can make their voices heard in calls to those responsible for a change of direction before it is too late. Thank you.

Sir Vincent Fean:

 I thank His Royal Highness for that heartfelt intervention. Now we move to the first session of our conference.

Session I – History

Andrew Whitley:

Thanks to everyone for joining this conference today. It’s my honour to be the chair of this first section on history and what a history it is. Anyone who has been to Jerusalem – and I had the privilege of living there for seven years – knows what a wonderful history it is and how one cannot escape that history. Going back to the First and Second Temples, the City of David, to the times of Jesus Christ; the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

I simply want to be able to set the scene here today, to say that history is an inescapable subject in Jerusalem, but it’s one which is so contentious that we need expert guides to talk us through it. Today, we shall be focusing on the modern era of Jerusalem: from the late Ottaman period through to the Mandate period and up to today.

To guide us on this journey, we have four distinguished historians and international relations experts deeply familiar with the city and with the broader Arab – Israeli conflict. Before introducing them, I would like to make two practical points. The first one Vincent has already mentioned, but it bears repeating is that there will be no Q&A at the end of this session; instead, please put your questions in the chatbox and we’ll try to tackle them at the end. Secondly, to inform everyone online that we are not, of course, charging you for this conference, but we would much appreciate any contributions that you’re able to make to the running of the Balfour Project, which is a charity and depends largely on volunteers.

Our speakers today are going to be in this order. We will begin with the distinguished Emeritus Professor of International Relations Avi Shlaim from Oxford and he will give us the keynote speech. After him, we will have Professor Salim Tamari, editor of the Jerusalem Quarterly from the Birzeit University and he will talk about the late Ottoman and early Mandate period. Professor Menachem Klein of Bar-Ilan University will then take over and give us a presentation on the Mandate period; the period that he has written about so vividly in his books on this city. And then finally Mick Dumper will speak to us. He is Professor in Middle East Politics at Exeter and someone deeply familiar with plans to be able to share the city.

So with no further ado, let me turn the floor over to Avi Shlaim. Thank you.

 Avi Shlaim:

Thank you, Andrew.

It is wonderful to see so many of you attending this conference online.

The real experts on Jerusalem are the three panelists who are going to follow me. My task is, as I understand it, is to put the Jerusalem issue in a much broader context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was made in Britain and the original scene was the Balfour Declaration.

In 1916, the Arabs constituted 90% of the population of Palestine, the Jews constituted 10% and they owned only 2% of the land. And yet Britain chose to award national rights to the Jewish minority and to deny the Arab majority. So this was a classic colonial document. The Balfour Declaration enabled the Zionists to embark on the systematic takeover of Palestine, a protest which is still ongoing today.

I can summarise the history of the British Mandate in Palestine by saying that Britain stole Palestine from the Palestinians and gave it to the Zionists. When the Arab revolt broke out in 1936, it was the British army which suppressed the revolt with the utmost brutality. The cornerstone of the British Mandate for Palestine was that there would be no representative institutions, no democracy until the Jews became the majority. The Palestine Mandate was unique. All the other mandates called on the mandatory power to prepare the country for self-government. The Palestine Mandate, which incorporated the Balfour Declaration, called on Britain to prepare Palestine to be the country to be governed eventually by Jews from all over the world.

 Jerusalem is at the heart and the core of this conflict. The reason for this is obvious. It is of the utmost importance to all three monotheistic religions, but it is of particularly deep spiritual, religious, symbolic, and political importance to Jews and Arabs. One solution to this problem is internationalisation; to make Jerusalem an international city. In 1947, the United Nations voted for the partition of the British Mandate into two states: one Jewish, one Arab, but Jerusalem was to be a separate international enclave; a corpus separatum, but it was not to be. A war broke out and the war degenerated into a general land grab. The losers in this war were the Palestinians and the winners were the Israelis, who extended their territory well beyond the UN official lines; and Jordan, which captured and later annexed the West Bank, including the Old City of Jerusalem to its Kingdom.

Jerusalem was divided down the middle between the two belligerents. Israel kept West Jerusalem and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan kept East Jerusalem. This was the status quo until June 1967. Immediately after the six-day war, Israel annexed Jerusalem.

The first thing to say is that the Israeli annexation of Jerusalem was illegal and it remains illegal today. Yet the Israeli mantra all along has been that Jerusalem is the unified eternal capital of the Jewish people. Israel has a record of extreme diplomatic intransigencies in all the issues in this conflict, but it has been especially intransigent when it came to Jerusalem.

In 1993, Israel and the PLO signed the Oslo Accord. This was a historic accord because it was the first agreement between the two principle sides to the conflict. But the Oslo Accord did not address the issue of Jerusalem, or indeed any other of the, what are called, permanent status issues. The other permanent status issues are:

The Right of Return of the 1948 Refugees

The Borders of the Palestinian Entity

The Future of the Jewish Settlements on Occupied Palestinian Territory and, last but not least,

The Future of Jerusalem.

The Oslo peace process failed. There are many reasons for its failure but the central reason, the most fundamental reason, is that Israel reneged on its side of the deal. Israel did not use the Oslo Accord to end the Occupation but to repackage the Occupation.

All the final status issues were put on the table at the Camp David Summit in July 2000, but there were two particularly sensitive issues: the right of return of the Palestinian refugees and Jerusalem. In the end, the conference failed and the sticking issue at that conference was the issue of Jerusalem. There could be no agreement. No agreement was reached on what to do with Jerusalem because Israel was intransigent.

One more attempt was made to resolve the conflict by President Clinton in December 2000, one month before he left the White House. Clinton convened the two delegations and presented to them what he modestly called the Clinton Parameters. These parameters envisage an independent Palestinian State on the West Bank, on the whole of the Gaza Strip and 94 to 96% of the West Bank with a capital city in East Jerusalem.

The principle applied to Jerusalem was: that which is Jewish, like the Jewish Quarter, would be under Israeli sovereignty, and that which is Muslim will be under Palestinian sovereignty, but the Clinton Parameters were not accepted and they left office with him. And yet in historical perspective, this was the real deal of the century. This was the best blueprint we have for a two-state solution.

President Trump, of course, has got his own – what he calls pretentiously, with absurd and ridiculous hype – the deal of the century. Before announcing the deal of the century, Trump had already recognised the whole of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. His peace plan was of course not a peace plan at all. It was a free pass for Israel to annex about a third of the West Bank. So the Palestinians rejected it angrily and that was the end of Trump’s deal of the century.

Yet, Trump’s plan represents a major American retreat from the idea of a two-state solution to the conflict. And the two-state solution has gathered the broadest possible international consensus, which included most of the Arab states. The Arab states back in 2002 at the Beirut Summit of the Arab League had launched their own peace initiative, the Saudi plan, which became the Arab peace initiative. The Arab peace initiative offered Israel peace and normalisation with all 22 members of the Arab League in return for an end of occupation and the emergence of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza with a capital city in East Jerusalem, but Israel never responded to the Arab peace initiative. This too deserves the title of the deal of the century.

Today, it is fashionable to say that the two-state solution is dead. I would say that the two-state solution was never born. I’d say this because at no time time since 1967 was Israel serious about allowing an independent Palestinian State. And at no point has America really pushed Israel to agree to a Palestinian State.

So what is the solution now? I think that the best solution would be one democratic state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, with equal rights for all its citizens.

So Vincent is probably going to reprimand me later on for recommending the one-state solution, because the Balfour Project as a whole is still wedded to the two-state solution. But we have to face reality. And the reality is that Israel by its constant expansion of settlements has killed the possibility of a viable Palestinian State.

You may say that one state, one bi-national state, with equal rights for all its citizens is pie in the sky. So I refer you to the book by Menachem Klein: “Lives in Common – Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem, Jaffa, and Hebron.” His book shows quite clearly the peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem was possible in the past. And if it was possible in the past, it should be possible in the present and in the future.

So I conclude as a historian of the Israeli – Palestinian conflict, as somebody who always supported the two-state solution in the past, I have now reached the conclusion that the only just solution to this conflict is one democratic state. And I recommend this to all the listeners, not just as a practical solution to the Jerusalem problem, but as a noble vision.

Thank you for listening.

Andrew Whitley:

Thank you very much, Avi. That was a really profound point that you ended on. Speaking for myself, I think that I would agree with you that that is the right way to proceed. Whether it is practical, I’m not sure, but certainly, it is the direction of travel that I think many believe is the right way to go.

I’m not certain yet whether Salim Tamari has been able to join us. He was having some technical difficulties so we might move quickly to Menachem who you have already referenced. So perhaps, Diana, if you could bring in Menachem Klein.

Menachem Klein:

I would like to start with two historical shifts that happened Jerusalem; in Greater Jerusalem, the Ottoman District of Jerusalem in the late 19th Century.

First, Jerusalem started to expand outside the walls. Jerusalemites lived in the walled city, and they created a modern city before World War I, and also afterwards.

Second, in the late 19th century and early 20th century, a local identity emerged among the Jerusalemites. Local patriotism of belonging to the city and seeing the citizens or the Jews and Arabs saw their neighbours, not as Jews versus Arabs versus Christians, but as Jerusalemites; people that shared the same land. They spoke the same language, in most cases, Arabic – even Ashkenazi Jews spoke Arabic – and they had shared interests and a shared identity within the Ottoman empire. They did not revolt against the Ottoman Empire but they had the preserved their own identity as Jerusalemites.

This is a big shift towards modernity by both Jews and Arabs. Both of them developed Jerusalem and moved it to become a very modern city in the early 20th century, which meant that Jerusalem became a modern city not only a holy place. So the way that Jerusalemites saw their own place was not just religion or a holy place, a separate space; but also a modern city and a city that people lived in, connected to the West, connected to the region. There were no borders between Jerusalem, Syria, Lebanon or Egypt; even Iraq or Turkey. It was not only a place that two rival religions or empires fight over ruling.

It is important to bear in mind that the mainstream Zionists did not see Jerusalem as a major place. For mainstream Zionism, Jerusalem was not important. They identified Jerusalem as a holy place but the Zionists, as a national secular movement, did not consider Jerusalem as a centre. So they neglected Jerusalem. In their imagination, it was identified with the ultra-Orthodox that they revolted against; with the exile, with the old Jews and they wanted to establish a new Jew.

So in the early 20th century, we see the establishment of two national movements. Each national movement was an ethno-exclusive national movement wanting to rule the area exclusively. And here comes the Balfour Declaration. If we look back from today’s discourse of one state versus two-state solution, we can say that the Balfour Declaration is in favor of one state. Of course, it is a Jewish state, a one-state solution.

This was the Balfour Declaration’s solution: that there will be cooperation between the Zionist movement and British colonialism.  Jewish hegemony, no Palestinians. The local people were classified as Muslims or Christians only, no local identity. The Balfour architects did not acknowledge the local identity of the people living in the place.

The two national movements aimed to undermine this identity. They wanted to replace this identity with their exclusive agenda; an ethno-exclusive agenda.

Did they succeed, if we look back from today or from the 1948 war? They succeeded in destroying the old order, definitely, but they could not achieve what each of them wanted: an exclusive new order, national rule, either Palestinian or Jewish.

In the end, what happened is that the British, in 1937, suggested the partition plan, and a different version became recognised by the UN internationally, and accepted internationally, in 1947.The vision of Palestine, a kind of a two-state solution, was accepted in ‘47 against the one-state Jewish hegemony of the Balfour Statement.

If we go back from the national movements, the national perspective, to the city of Jerusalem, life under the British Mandate; life in Jerusalem was managed on two levels. At the popular level, the two peoples, the two nations, cohabited and everyday life went on as normal. Sometimes there were clashes – in 1920, 1929 – but shortly afterwards they lived together in the same place, encountering, interacting; there were mixed marriages, and they met each other in public spaces and so on, up to 1945, 1948; up to the war. However, in the municipal institutions and nationwide, there was an escalating clash between the two national movements.

Jerusalem was the center of the British administration and the City Council that the Brits artificially wanted to keep a balance between the two national movements, to maintain an artificial balance between Jews and Arabs in the City Hall, failed. The City Hall was paralysed. It was a platform of clashes between the Zionists and the Palestinians.

Regardless, it was the Nashashibi and the Hussaini trying to undermine both of these clans and of course the Jewish members of the City Hall. So the city suffered from a very hot clash in the City Hall and in the institutions. But down in the streets, they managed. It shows that Jerusalemites are more sophisticated or wise than their leaders.

And it’s true also up to date. I think anyone who follows what’s going on on the ground in the city sees that the conflict is not everywhere and there are many, many areas, even today, where Jews and Arabs cooperate, not only against COVID-19, but also in daily life. So this kind of difference between the national conflict and life on the ground is relevant and also up to date.

Finally, Jerusalem was divided between Jordan and Israel in ‘48 based on the understanding – and thank you Avi for teaching us in your first book, “Collusion over Jordan” – due to the understanding between the Zionist leadership and Ben Gurion, and Israel and Jordan, Jerusalem was divided between Jordan and Israel in the 1948 war.

This division ended in of course in 1967, and since then, Israel occupies Jordanian Jerusalem; Palestinian Jerusalem. But still, de facto, on the ground there many areas that are divided between Jews and Arabs or Israel actually discriminates the Arab parts of Jerusalem.

Can we go back to the two-state or two-city solutions? In my view, and perhaps I open it for further debate, it’s impossible to build a Berlin Wall, or a full wall of total separation, between Jewish neighbourhoods and Palestinian neighbourhoods. Under any circumstances, there must be a kind of, what I call, confederational arrangement between the Israeli Entity and the Palestinian Entity sharing the same urban space.

Of course, it is possible today, following what was possible in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, with all the changes that happened in between the two periods, but still, we have a local identity as Jerusalemites that pushes the Jews and the Palestinians, the two sides, to cooperate and share the same space.

Thank you very much.

Mick Dumper:

Good morning, everyone, and good morning to my fellow panellists and to all of you who’ve turned up for this session.

My little presentation will really bring to a close this historical section. I’ll bring it right up to the present day, but it also obviously links to the past, because when you’re talking about Jerusalem, you can never get away from the historical legacy of the city.

I’m briefly going to concentrate on the holy sites as an example of some of the contentious contemporary issues. I know later on in the day you’ll be having Danny Seidemann giving you a much fuller exposition. I’m going to focus here perhaps on the role of the holy sites and some of the negotiations and the search for a peaceful resolution. In this way, I’m trying to stick close to the theme of the conference, but also to provide a bridge to the sessions later on in the day.

Now I’ll try and share with you my screen.

So I just want to show some maps to give you an idea of what we’re talking about. If we start from 1948, the period that Menachem was talking about, through to 1967, you can see here the green line, the Old City in the middle, and these eight yellow areas are the areas of Palestinian residence. If we move on a little bit, you’ll see in ’67 a new border of Jerusalem is created, which acquired or again annexed certain parts of the West Bank and made that part of the Greater Jerusalem. Over the following sixties, odd years, you had a whole series of Israeli settlements, these blue blocks, being implanted on the other side. You can see the huge demographic changes taking place. On this map, you should be able to see the proposed wall, or the wall in existence, and some of the extensions to the wall that are planned.

So Jerusalem is going undergoing dramatic changes and there are lots of issues on that demography, about the scale of the new borders, the direction of them, the kind of governance over the city, and to what extent the international community is going to be involved in its future. I can’t cover all of these issues. I teach a course on Jerusalem and it takes a week, so in ten minutes I can’t really cover them all now. I’m just going to quickly look at the holy places and the Old City and refer to a number of discussions around the future.

As you all know, Menachem and Avi have spoken of Jerusalem as a centre for Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, and here we have well-known pictures of some sites. There are over 300 sites in the Old City alone. That’s probably, roughly, every four meters: a holy site. This is chock-a-block. From prayer rooms, to churches, to mosques, to seminaries, to synagogues; and they’re right next to each other, on top of each other, sometimes they’re intertwined with each other. You can imagine, even in the happiest of circumstances, how difficult it is to keep a harmonious interaction between them.

These sites provide the communities with a very strong sense of their territorial presence and reinforce some of the ethnic divisions between them. It’s important to remember these sites are controlled by clergy who are quite powerful and who have international connections, so whatever goes on in Jerusalem immediately resonates around the world; there’s a lot of media interest straight away. It’s a city in the spotlight all the time.

The key focus of much of the tension has been in the area known as the Temple Mount, or the Haram al-Sharif, which is where you have the Al Aqsa mosque, the Dome of the Rock, the Al-Marwani prayer hall – which is underneath this paving area – and the Golden Gate, which has more recently become an issue. Somewhere along here is the presumed place of the Holy of Holies from the ancient biblical period. You have the Wailing Wall, the Western Wall, down here; and then a tunnel that runs along the edge of the Haram al-Sharif known as the Western Wall Tunnel, which has now become part of a national shrine in Israel. 

This is the epicentre of a lot of the tension, but we shouldn’t really forget that all around Jerusalem, the Old City, there are other sites which are quite well known. I can’t go through all of them and I’m sure Daniel Seidemann will give you much more detail. I’ll just mention Mamilla Cemetery and the Mount Zion Daoudi Complex, as well as the Jewish Cemetery here on the other side.

When it comes to peace plans, there are more or less four options. You can divide them into four groups. If this is the hard border between Israel and Palestine – and I’m talking about peace plans around Jerusalem – one set of options is that Israel has control of the Old City and so the border goes to the east of the Old City. The opposite option to that is that Palestine has control of the Old City and the border goes to the west of the Old City. Now, these two above are obviously acceptable to either side, but that’s where much of the debate is taken.

That leads to the other options, where there is a zone created around the Old City, which is, in some sense, shared, or has a third party looking after it for a temporary period until a resolution is arrived at. Or you have a version of this in which there’s an open border, there’s a compromise over the main areas around functional issues and security, but there’s no clear division of sovereignty.

These are more or less the four options that most of the Jerusalem plans fall into. In the year 2000, when Clinton hosted the Camp David discussions, the Israeli proposal was that if this is the Old City, they would push the border way to the east and these areas would become part of a Palestinian Jerusalem. This was in the end unacceptable and the main reason why the Camp David negotiations broke down.

What I wanted to look at are two initiatives that try to find a way around this impasse. I think I feel I’m speaking slightly out of turn here because Menachem Klein has had much more direct experience as a participant in these discussions than I have. I was more involved in the JOCI one, but Menachem has experience of both of these.

If I look at Jerusalem Old City Initiative – JOCI – there is a website and there is also this book that recently came out, last year, which is a detailed description of how the negotiations went.

It was initiated by a group of former Canadian diplomats and academics. They decided that the Old City, where the key holy places were, was the nut that has to be cracked. It had to sort that one out. They felt that what was important, was if you could sort out the Old City and how that was going to be governed, other things would fall into place much more easily. They went for something called an international regime that would be backed by a UN Security Council resolution. The whole question of sovereignty was put to one side; whether it belongs to the Israelis or the Palestinians, they thought, should not be discussed at that point. The regime they suggested should last for about 10 years, which is incidentally very similar to the Partition Plan Proposal of ‘47. Then there should be a review and perhaps an election after 10 years.

The proposals in this initiative focused a lot on security and safety in access to the holy sites. I was asked to develop some of these ideas and we came up with a four-pillar model. There’d be an Old City administration with a holy site police unit, which would be international and comprising both parties. There would be an inter-religious council and there’d be specialised working groups on archeology, on land disputes, and justice. That would be the basic structure.

Now there were problems about this. One of them was that the suspension of sovereignty was a big issue because, as we all know in international relations, when both parties accept something, even on a temporary basis, that becomes the new status quo. The thought of suspending sovereignty was very unpalatable to the Palestinians who wanted at least some recognition that if they didn’t attain that sovereignty, it was still there to be discussed.

Also, there was a sense in which the Old City would be detached from its hinterland. It would create another mini-municipality within the bigger city and there would be checkpoints as you go in and out of the Old City, which would fragment the city even more.

Elements of the JOC Initiative have been discussed at a very high level. They were part of the material that was submitted to the participants of the Annapolis Conference in 2007 and it still remains on the table, as well as the few proposals which have tried to spell out the consequences of a compromise over the governance of the holy sites.

The other initiative was called the Geneva Initiative, launched in 2003. It didn’t have a particular official status, but Palestinian Israeli figures in both Camp David and Taba were very involved in a personal capacity and it reflected the thinking at that time. The area of agreement was that there were two capitals, two municipalities, and there would be a coordination committee between them. There would be also a special regime for the Old City, very similar to the JOCI ideas, with Palestinian sovereignty over Haram al-Sharif. In exchange, Palestinians would accede sovereignty to the Jewish Quarter and many of the Israeli settlements.

The Geneva Initiative, again, is still out there. From time to time there are people working on some elements of it to try and reconcile some of the differences.

The main problem is that it really reflected the balance of power at the time. Palestinians who welcomed it, started to pull away from it, because they felt that it too much entrenched the fact of Israeli dominance. It also had the problem of fragmenting the city – and you can see from this map here –  this would have been the borders trying to incorporate the Israeli settlements. You’d have all these corridors, tunnels, and bypasses, which was a security expert’s nightmare. The question of dividing up the Old City into a Palestinian area and an Israeli area was quite unacceptable to the Palestinians at that time.

So when I look at some of these peace plans – take these two, as an example – I try and pick out what is agreed, and what needs still to be worked on.

This is a very rough, quite cosmetic list here. It’s much more nuanced than this, I just wanted to give you a snapshot of where we are in terms of the discussions, or where we have been, as at the moment, all the discussions are suspended. There’s more or less an agreement that there would be some dual municipal structure, and that there would be special arrangements for the Old City and the holy places. To be still clarified, but people see that as the direction of travel. There would be some third parties, some international role, for verification, for providing security, and there might be some land swaps. What isn’t sorted, is the sovereignty of the Old City over the Western Wall and Haram-al Sharif and how the different areas of the city link up together. What contiguity mechanisms, what borders or tunnels or special bypasses and bridges. The exact line of the municipal borders is still to be decided. Some people prefer a small border, others say, no, let’s have a larger one because then there’ll be much more scope for the city to have its own legal and administrative system.

The remaining element is: to what extent would the Palestinian security services be involved in the security of the area and what happens to Palestinian property in West Jerusalem in this scenario? I won’t go into this because I’m sure you’ll have chances to speak, but obviously, this is a bit of a spanner in the works. There are a number of issues around what the US has done and it’ll be very interesting to see if Biden reverses any of these steps taken by the Trump administration. Just to say that it’s not at all clear what the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel actually means in practice and on the ground. There are lots of procedural problems that the diplomats are working on.

I’ll stop here and thank you very much, Andrew.

Nice to see you, Menachem and Avi again, and hello to all the participants.


Andrew Whitley:

Thank you very much, indeed. That was really authoritative.

I’m glad to say that Salim has now been able to join us. So Salim, if you could kindly unmute yourself we’ll give you the floor now.

Salim Tamari:

I intend to discuss the centrality of Jerusalem in the late Ottoman period and the way the idea of a Palestine entity evolved in reaction to the events following the Egyptian campaign in Syria in which the province, the separation of Syria from the Ottoman Empire elicited a number of reactions. One of which was the opening up of Jerusalem for a substantial presence from the European powers, especially the Germans, the Russians, the British and the French, with a considerable amount of educational institutions and healthcare by the Vatican and the Catholic forces. During this period, Jerusalem became a separate autonomous province of Holy Jerusalem in the Ottoman Empire.

It also led to a substantial amount of competition, in which the various European consulates and European missions began to establish their presence in a way that challenged Ottoman rule. The presentation I had prepared, which I’m unable to share with you here, discusses how this correspondence between a greater Jerusalem entity and the Ottoman definition of “Philistine” in Syria became more or less synonymous.

We can trace it very much in the cartography and the travel literature of the period. There are two items which interest in this vision. One is the great preponderance of literature, which is known as Fada’il al-Quds or the Virtues of Jerusalem in Arab and Islamic, including Turkish Islamic, celebration of the importance of Jerusalem as part of travel to the Holy Land. There’s profuse literature going back to the 16th Century, but it became very preponderant in the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries. The ultimate mapping of Syria was part of the campaign in which the naval expeditions of the Ottoman Empire, beginning with Piri Reis in the 16th Century and continuing with Evliya Celebi in the 17th Century, created a commercial and military mapping of Syria, as well as the rest of the Mediterranean, for the purposes of asserting Ottoman naval ascendancy. The part which deals with Jerusalem and Palestine is significant because beginning with Piri Reis in the late 16th century, we see visually dramatic, commercially useful, and militarily instrumentals allocations of boundaries and areas of urban expansion in Ottoman mapping. For the first time, we see urban maps of major provincial cities and, of course, Jerusalem was part of it.

In my intended PowerPoint, I show the evolution of the growth of the Jerusalem district, of the province of Jerusalem, in an increasingly sophisticated way in these mappings, going back to the late 16th Century and early 17th century, and then joined by the Khideval mapping services – Egypt was then nominally an Ottoman province and Egyptian Khideval cartography was seen as part of the Ottoman cartography, although of course, Egyptian interests after Muhammad Ali’s campaign became distinct and separate and competitive.

The net results of these competing interests of a Jerusalem, first by the European powers after the Egyptian campaign, second by Ottoman administration in response to these European claims over the holy places, redefined what Jerusalem was and evolved into a Jerusalem entity which reached its zenith with two events.

The first was the establishment of an autonomous Jerusalem province in the 1870s. This was one of the few autonomous provinces in the Ottoman region, the other one being the  Province of Mount Lebanon. Second, the creation in 1872 of three different Sanjaks, which joined together what became later known as the Palestinian districts of Hakka, Nablus, and Jerusalem. That is the province of Jerusalem was joined with the Sanjak of Hakka and Nablus to form one single unit, which was called the Province of Jerusalem District, and European powers called it the Autonomous Region of Palestine. The word Palestine was used by European powers and in Istanbul. Both the word Filistin and al-Quds Al-Sharif were used for the creation of this separate unit corresponding to the autonomous zone of Mount Lebanon. This district, or three Sanjaks, combined into one, making one single Palestinian province under Thurayya Pasha who was the governor of Aleppo, then the Governor of Syria and now became the Governor of Palestine – did not last long.

It lasted very briefly, maybe for a year and a half, before the re-districting of the area joined the Northern part of Palestine to the Beirut Province (Vilayat Beirut) and the central part remained as the district of Palestine. What is significant in all of this is, in Ottoman cartography and Ottoman administrative usages, Palestine was Jerusalem and Jerusalem was Palestine. Meaning that the head of the province, which had both the city of Jaffa and the city of Jerusalem in it, was one single province that was marked as Philistine on Ottoman cartography. That remained the condition until the coming of the First World War. During the war, we have a very interesting development, in which Ottoman Turkish administrative boundaries shifted again with the creation of one single province extending from Sur in Southern Lebanon to Rafa in the south. In military cartography, which is enunciated in a very important document, which was a manual for military use called it Philistine, and it was authored, according to my investigation, by Muhammad Bahjat, the cartographer and sonographer.

That corresponded to a new entity called Palestine, is clearly marked as Philistine, and the capital of that region was the city of Jerusalem. This progression from a marginal, physical administrative boundaries of of a Pilgrim centre known as Jerusalem and enunciated and elaborated in the literature known as Fada’il al-Quds, now evolved in competition with the claims of the European powers, leading later to Tsarist, French and British claims over Palestine, as well as German interests, who were by then allied with the British, created a larger Palestinian entity with Jerusalem as its center. 

The point I’m trying to make is that the creation of the Balfour Project in Britain did not come suddenly. It came from a large number of attempts by European powers to establish themselves in the Jerusalem district for the whole of Palestine and not only for the greater Jerusalem area and responded to by Ottoman assertion of Jerusalem as the holy – of course, Jerusalem was Haram al-Sharif and it was in Ottoman literature administered interests equal to, but now superior to, the connection with the Hijaz. That of course collapsed completely during war giving way to the Franco-British occupation of Palestine and the establishment, and then the separation, of shared power between Britain and France, the establishment of British interest in Palestine, the League of Nations Mandate, and the introduction of the Balfour Declaration.

My point here is that the Ottomans were very keen on countering what became the Balfour Declaration – before it was Balfour – through the assertion of claims by the Germans, who were their allies, by the French, by the Italians, especially by the Russians, for control over the Holy Land. They did this by expanding the area of Jerusalem all the way to the Sur boundaries in Southern Lebanon.

I will end my talk by saying that the centrality of Jerusalem in the Ottoman discourse was asserted through travel literature, through religious literature, through establishing pilgrimage routes, through the connection of the economic network between the port city of Jaffa and Jerusalem, and finally, by military administrative means of creating one single entity of Palestine in 1915 which collapsed in December of 1917.

Andrew Whitley:

Thank you very much indeed Salim. We’re enormously relieved that you were able to join us for that extremely rich history, but also because you are the Palestinian representative on this panel and we needed to hear your voice.

Colleagues, we’re running a little bit late now because of the technical problems that we had, including my own. I must apologise to everyone for that. Unfortunately, I lost the link at one stage. I couldn’t hear what was going on and had to rejoin. I’m going to cut the discussion short because we’re approaching the end of this panel.

I’m simply going to ask one question, which I would like everyone to answer briefly. It’s the same question to all of you and I would be grateful if we could take it in turns that you will simply answer the question: what lessons can you draw from past attempts to share the city, or to divide the city, for today? Are any of those lessons from past experience – which Mick went through it in some detail – still relevant today? Avi referred to the Clinton Parameters, but he also expressed his own doubts about the viability or the prospects for a two-state solution. Is it useful for us to be able to try to draw any lessons from history for policymakers today? Perhaps Avi you could start?

Avi Shlaim:

At the heart of this conflict is a clash between two national movements and these two national movements have found it impossible to come to terms over Jerusalem. Nationalism is a very exclusive force, a very powerful force, and a dividing force; divides us into us and then. That is the fundamental problem, not just in Jerusalem, but across the board.

The lessons of history are two, which are the two national movements that have never been able to come to a compromise over Jerusalem. The second lesson is the great powers who have been unceasingly involved in this conflict have also had their own separate national interests and were unable to promote a joint solution to the conflict.

That is why my conclusion is that all other attempts to resolve the Jerusalem problems failed, and the only one is to share Jerusalem in the context of a bi-national state from the River to the Sea.

Andrew Whitley:

Thank you very much. Let me turn to Menachem and hear his thoughts.

Menachem Klein:

My answer is as following: Regardless of which type of state we would have in Israel and Palestine, the city cannot be divided by a wall. The citizens of Jerusalem showed in the past and definitely need to cooperate and counter-collaborate and share the urban space in which they mix together.

It’s impossible to divide and it has to be shared between two equal partners. One should not rule over the other. So equality and sharing are the key concepts towards a much better and different future.

Andrew Whitley:

You’ve expressed the philosophy of the Balfour Project very well.

Let me turn to Mick.

Mick Dumper:

I follow on from what Menachem and Avi have said.

One thing that is missing in a lot of the discussions about the future of the city, is a recognition of the urban dynamics of the city. Cities are a multi-ethnic heterogeneous mix and to try to allow or to create a system where one community dominates the other will lead to ghettoisation and marginalisation of different elements and it kills the city.

It deprives the city of its vitality and its cosmopolitanism and much of the discussions seem to neglect that and seem to see the city as a map, through which they can draw lines which may correspond to some security or some demographic issue, but don’t see the city as a whole, where the different parts of it and the different ethnicities and concessions and sub-groups all contribute to making it a vital and likely place. I’m following on from Menachem and Avi in that sense, there is something intrinsically heterogeneous about a city, which isn’t reflected in a lot of the discussions that we’re having about the future of the city.

Andrew Whitley:

Salim, you’re a Jerusalemite and have studied the city most of your life. What lessons do you draw from the past and what future do you see?

Salim Tamari:

It’s very difficult to draw lessons when you are inside the grim reality of the city today. I want to project something from what is being said.

First, the excessive sacralisation of the city has been a measure impediment to any kind of political reconciliation, because when religion rules, then it becomes an overwhelming ideological factor, excluding the others. Especially in Jewish claims and Islamic claims of the city, the idea of territorial division has been anathema and that is why sacralisation has been a negative factor in attempting to find a solution.

The second point is that the existing demography of the city, which was referred to by the three speakers, or at least the part that I listened to, is a de facto factor against the existing form of apartheid that’s being run and cannot be squared with any kind of democratic control or any kind of political control that relies on disenfranchisement.

So we need a solution that will address the demographic control in a representative factor without even looking at wider solutions of the Arab – Israeli conflict.

The third point is that, the earlier Partition Plan condition of internationalisation – which failed, of course, in 1947 and after the ‘48 and ‘67 wars – today, sounds a very attractive way of intervention, since neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians are able, given the balance of forces, to resolve their condition. Therefore it has weight and possibilities of intervention that make it palatable, and make it interesting to rethink, in the medium-term future, to look at internationalisation.

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