During his speech in Washington, Obama clung to the ways of the past, which were already brought up in the Oslo Accords, and proposed that discussion of the Jerusalem and refugee issues be postponed. Netanyahu also clung to the past slogan whereby “Jerusalem must never be divided again.” However, he made new comments regarding the ability to reach a solution with some creativity and goodwill. Yet he stopped there, without presenting any substantive solution, creative idea or essential innovation.
In order to be bold and creative, one must understand that examining Jerusalem requires an ability to do the impossible without undermining the puzzle. The city is complex politically, religiously, demographically and socioeconomically, and here are some thoughts about possible solutions:
I was born and raised in Jerusalem, where I’ve lived for almost all my life. I belong to a group that is apparently a minority in the city today – seculars, Israelis and Zionists. In order to contend with some of the problems maligning the city, I seek a leader possessing especially creative thinking who would be able to do the impossible while maintaining Jerusalem’s wholeness.
The city’s demographic and geographic makeup makes the mission of dividing it impossible, and those who speak of dividing Jerusalem apparently did not visit there or attempt to walk though its neighborhoods. For example, in the French Hill neighborhood, which was partly inside Israel before 1967 as part of Mount Scopus, there are small Arab areas within Jewish districts.
Thinking out of the box
Moreover, anyone who seeks to reach French Hill is forced to go through neighborhoods that are deeply intertwined. The same is true for another neighborhood that was unquestionably Jewish before 1948 – Neve Yaakov. Parts of the roads that lead there cross Arab neighborhoods. And we haven’t even spoken about districts where the world doesn’t recognize our control.
Hence, this puzzle cannot be dismantled. The difficulty has to do with the kind of box we should put it in – a round one or a square one, Israeli or Arabic – and which religion should be allowed to control parts of the city. But instead of thinking about the puzzle’s box, we better think out of the box and turn back to UN Resolution 181, the partition decision.
Jerusalem needs to be a city with a unique status. We need to create a precedent and to that end we need leaderships that possess great powers of imagination on both sides to overcome prejudice, political perceptions, faiths and ideologies – in order to establish a special city that has no equal in the world.
Jerusalem should be the joint capital of two states – Israel and Palestine – yet at the same time enjoy a special status. This special status will have to be formulated by the countries involved through serious negotiations and great imagination, in order to decide how to establish this special authority. Such authority may be created especially to that end or under the UN’s auspices; another possibility is to grant city hall a unique political status.
That way, we may finally secure international recognition for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital (and also as Palestine’s capital) and other countries would be able to set up their embassies there – one embassy that would serve the citizens of both states (as the Americans do in their Jerusalem consulate.)
And so, Israel would be able to realize its political status in the city, with official State institutions to be located there, while simultaneously the Palestinians will do the same. City residents will be Israeli or Palestinian and hold Israeli or Palestinian passports, yet at the same time they will have a unique passport – that of the Jerusalem Authority.
I’m sure that if I get two such passports, I’ll be delighted to use both of them, and especially the Jerusalem passport that will have no equal in the world.
Dr. Hanan Naveh heads the School of Communications at the Sapir Academic College
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