Final Status Negotiations on Jerusalem – An Inside Look

Presentation Given at PASSIA

Tuesday, 13 March 2001


By Prof. Manuel Hassassian

Director of the Jerusalem Task Force – Orient House





I would like to express my deep gratitude to the members of the Jerusalem Task Force: Issa Kassissieh, Matthew Brubacher, Jan de Jong and Dr. Nazme Ju’beh for their substantive contributions to this presentation.


Opening Remarks


Today we meet at a time when there are few signs for us to be hopeful.  For the past several years, the beacon of hope lit after the signing of the Declarations of Principles in 1993, has been gradually extinguished.  The systematic closures of Jerusalem that prevent Palestinians, both Christians and Muslims alike, from entering Jerusalem and praying at its holy sites have become routine despite its blatant violation of basic human rights. Settlements are expanding like cancer, and for many Jerusalemites, an increased sense of alienation overcomes us when we consider our future. 


Are we destined to become totally dependent on an Israeli government that would rather not have us here, treated as second or even third class residents; or will we be forced to emigrate and join the growing Palestinian diaspora in search for a better future but be condemned to leave our country and people behind us?  In part, the answer to this question lies in the success or failure of our negotiations with the Israeli state and no where are the stakes higher than in the heart and soul of the country, Jerusalem.



Rather than engage in the political warfare and finger-pointing of who is responsible for derailing the peace process, we find it more constructive to attempt to examine the faults in the process itself and to rebuild its foundation by finding common ground where Palestinians and Israelis can join to meet as equal partners in peace with true intentions of arriving at peaceful agreements to our national disputes.
It would, however, be naïve and self-deceiving of us to approach each other without first recognizing the differences and asymmetries which compose both our actual power and perceived imagery of the other.  It is therefore of the utmost importance to convey to the Israeli side, the Palestinian position and why such a position exists.  Through this effort, we also hope to understand Israel’s position and see where we can meet on common ground, ground that is met upon for the intentions of making peace, not based on the coercive muscle flexing or check-mate tactics.


The Palestinian position is a culmination of current and historical facts that have affected the public sentiment and negotiation status of the Oslo peace process. Unfortunately, a great deal of positive public hope for the peace process has been squandered at the hands of Israel who has consistently engaged in unilateral acts intended to prejudice the outcome of negotiations.   All this even while both the Israeli and Palestinian side openly agreed in the Oslo Accords not to make any maneuvers to prejudice the status and position of the final stage of negotiations. 


Despite such agreements, the Palestinians witnessed the continued expropriation of their land for new settlements and bypass roads, the closure of Jerusalem to “non-residents”, and the increased web of hardships faced by Jerusalem residents to remain in their city.  Such unilateral actions have substantially eroded the confidence of Palestinians in the good will of their Israeli counterparts.  Furthermore, when Palestinians realize that such acts are part of an official and systematic state policy that is both organized and well-funded it becomes obvious to them that Palestinians concerns and the overall concern of peace is secondary to the Israeli agenda. Israel simply cannot expect to have the land, the security and peace while giving nothing but limited control over the crumbs of the Occupied Territory, crumbs that have the highest concentration of “rowdy” and “unlawful” Palestinians.


Looking at the situation today, building confidence with the Israeli side may not be possible but it is not wholly necessary.  Many of the best agreements were done in an atmosphere of distrust but the mechanism and the process towards achieving peace was still possible (and perhaps even better since nothing is left to chance).  What is needed urgently is not necessarily confidence building with Israelis but confidence building in the process itself as a means of securing vital interests for both sides. 


We have therefore suggested a collective and reciprocal approach that focuses on confidence building measures in a negotiating process that works to enhance both public motivation and policy maker’s good will.  A preponderant dynamic of Middle East politics is its tendency to breed distrust in all corners of political activity.  Furthermore, the lack of transparency in decision-making and the plethora of backdoor negotiations marginalizes the potential beneficiaries of the process, contributes to public distrust and widens the gap between the public and decision makers.  The inevitable result is an overall public dissatisfaction that is then further compounded by the harshness of daily life and a distrust of the perceived enemy.  Confidence building measures are a tool to begin reversing this erosion while working to build regional security between both sides.  In its broad definition, we can understand confidence building measures as:


A security management approach employing distinctly cooperative measures that intend to clarify the military intentions of participating states’ thereby reducing uncertainties about their potentially threatening military activities, and to constrain their opportunities for surprise attack or coercive use of military force.


With respect to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, this definition takes on different connotations.  For Palestinians, issues such as arms control is a relatively novel discipline both conceptually and practically.  This stems from the fact that our position and future as a nation is uncertain.   Although we are moving in the direction of state formation, real territorial integrity and sovereignty remain out of reach.  Yet there is much within our power that can be conveyed to our partners (if we perceive them as our partners) that will be mutually beneficial. 


Confidence building measures rely on two very important elements.  First, confidence building can only be effective as a process within a larger political process, not simply a means unto itself.  When disassociated from this larger process and purpose, confidence building loses much of its meaning and becomes a narrow, information-enhancing activity incapable of fundamentally altering a security relationship.  Secondly, confidence building requires an acute perception and use of timing.  If confidence building measures are to be used as catalysts in gaining wide support form peace inclined forces, they need to be implemented at the proper time and place.  Both societies will not accept public relations propaganda if they do not believe that the content suits their concerns and, more importantly, will not believe that the motivation or intention of the political process is sincere if it is not adapted to the immediate context.


In summary, confidence building measures have great potential for fueling an authentic peace process. It is with regret that we as Palestinians report that what confidence has been built is continually being destroyed by unilateral acts implemented by Israel and the manner of secrecy that has dominated the negotiations and marginalizes the public.  Confidence building measures are effective in putting both policy makers and the public back on the mental track for peace but only if Palestinians are allowed a minimal amount of security and are allowed to participate in the process.  The hardships inflicted on Palestinians during a supposed “peace process,” erodes the confidence of Palestinians that, even if an agreement were signed, it would be implemented fully in practice and on the ground by the Israeli side.


Preliminary Remarks on the Essence of the Conflict


The potentials and tribulations of the Palestinian / Israeli and the Arab / Israeli conflict, in all its dimensions, are realized, symbolized and crystallized in the question of Jerusalem.  Jerusalem is blessed (or perhaps cursed) with a religious, political and military history caused by divergent, discordance and conflicting claims that impact on the city’s future.  Indeed such an outlook implies to the unbiased observer, the impossibility of a “neat” solution.  The multi-cultural, rich history and conflicting claims of Jerusalem are indeed an obstacle for forming a solution but not a death knell.  A solution for Jerusalem can be envisioned through an evolving process that gradually integrates communities by creating a system whereby their interactions are done on the basis of equality and freedom for all those who hold Jerusalem as sacred for one reason or another.


Three decades ago, Israeli forces occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  Part of this conquest of course included the occupation of Arab East Jerusalem.  Despite the fact that international law and UN resolutions explicitly forbid the acquisition of land by force and the alteration of the status of Jerusalem, Israeli has spared no time in declaring Jerusalem its “unified” capital city and has worked methodically and systematically towards realizing this myth.   The Judaization of Jerusalem, the imposition of a Jewish landscape both physically and demographically, has continued without interruption throughout the Peace Process, as though Jerusalem were a non-negotiable issue and not one to be decided through final status negotiations.  Israel has moved swiftly without a trace of shyness to implement a whole series of Israeli laws and practices to prejudice the outcome of negotiations by changing the landscape to suit its interests.


Fundamental to this strategy is Israel’s policy of settlement construction for “Jewish only” neighborhoods, while at the same time severely limiting the construction and land use for the Palestinians.  Such policies have intentionally retarded the prospects for Palestinian sovereignty in the city by confining Palestinians to scattered, under-developed neighborhoods fenced in by two belts of ever expanding settlements.  Furthermore, Israeli policies have restricted Palestinian economic development and habitation.  The central business district in Arab East Jerusalem has been unable to expand since the occupation and no other industrial or commercial areas have developed. Israel also has used its power over residency laws to bar non-Jerusalem Palestinians from living and even entering the city.  Today, from a population of zero in 1948, there are now no less than 180,000 Jewish settlers living in 34% of occupied East Jerusalem – a number that almost equals the number of Palestinian residents who live cramped into 13% of the eastern half of the city. This is a testament to the success of the Israeli settlement strategy which is nothing short of colonialism for the Palestinians.


Through the confiscation of lands in East Jerusalem, Israel was able to take control of strategic and ideologically significant sites.  It built large settlement blocks to strengthen its demographic (and also its military) control of the newly occupied territory.  The Israeli strategy has unmistakenly been to consolidate its control over the entire city and erase the Green Line but its strategy is fundamentally flawed.  The hope that with the passing of time, the question of Jerusalem will be decided by the ongoing de facto demographic and physical changes is not a possibility.  Neither is it a possibility that the world will magically forget that East Jerusalem is a part of the West Bank and that Jerusalem must be a multi-cultural city and not for Jews and Jews only. 


Moreover, it is clear that without Palestinian sovereignty in Arab East Jerusalem, without the room for habitation development or the expansion of our central business district, Jerusalem will always be a source of instability rather than progress.  Israel understands that by giving back these vital areas, Palestinians will be able to live, develop and nurture East Jerusalem Arab identity.  If Israel is allowed to continue in this manner and does not allow Palestinian East Jerusalem to be a viable city and the political and economic heart of the emerging state, it will remain a marginal, back water city that is characterized for its slums more than the beauty of its landmarks and holy sites. 


Unfortunately, history has always tended to favor the acquisition of territory by military force and there is not a large amount of difference with the Israeli occupation of lands beyond the border of the June the 4th 1967.  Also Jerusalem, as a city embodies the aspirations of a diverse group of communities and faiths.  It is therefore the burden with the steepest challenge of all: the challenge to stretch itself thin enough to satisfy the quarreling powers that claim sovereignty and jurisdiction over their respective “holy soil”.


It is no secret that the question of Jerusalem, with or without the fateful “Peace Process” remains one of the largest impediments to achieving peace between the Palestinians and Israelis.  Finding a solution that will satisfy the needs of the two communities will indeed be a formidable challenge and requires an effective and flexible negotiating process.  Many involved in the negotiations and even those sponsoring the negotiations believe that the question of Jerusalem is a zero-sum conflict.  More than anything else, the following material in this presentation will attempt to dissuade such ways of thought and to expand people’s understanding of the potential tools of negotiations.  From a distance many of these ideas may seem intangible and unpractical in the current environment, especially with the Sharon government in power, but these ideas and tools must be seen for their potential and ability to produce a win-win option where the livelihoods of both Palestinians and Israelis (even some Israeli settlers) can be preserved.


Before continuing however it is important that we explore the venues for developing the ideas and approaches for negotiations, this can be accomplished in what is called the second track negotiations.  It is in these negotiations that the real ground work on both a technical and political dimension between the two sides is hammered out and it is in these meetings that the common ground for future negotiations is found.


Second Track Negotiations


Second track negotiations are indispensable to the success of negotiations and are a means to develop a popular understanding of the concepts and positions of both the Israeli and Palestinian side.  Second track negotiations developed alongside and even prior to official first track negotiations when decision-makers from both sides would meet together in workshops to discuss the most mundane to the greatest of stumbling points between the two sides.  These types of exchanges have greatly contributed to the breakdown of serious misunderstandings and have produced some of the most creative and practical ideas to bridge the gap.


Although with the outbreak of the Intifada and the election of Ariel Sharon, the climate is no longer conducive for negotiations, it is vital that channels remain open.  It is worth mentioning here that the Orient House has continued to maintain second track negotiations despite the changes in the Israeli government.  When the Labor party lost the elections in 1996 to Likud, led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, second track negotiations continued within the circles linked to the Israeli Labor party even while channels were also opened on the official level with the Likud led Israeli government.  These open doors allowed for preparations on both sides to be made and were later utilized when serious negotiations resumed when Labor was re-elected in 1999.


Regarding the mechanism of second track negotiations, it is important to note that while the Israeli think tanks and circles would coordinate among each other, despite their differences, the Palestinian side lacked such a unifying strategy and thus operated in separate islands.  As a result, the Israeli side benefited not only from having one system and a manner of cooperation which allowed for a systematic and beneficial filtering of information but the Israeli side managed to exploit the division on the Palestinian side thereby exacerbating and antagonizing the differences between Palestinian policy-makers.


However, despite the difficulties, the Israeli position has become closer to the Palestinian position by the time the Palestinians engaged in official final status talks.  To exemplify the magnitude of space that was bridged, five years ago, almost no one believed any of East Jerusalem would return to the Palestinian / Arab side, today it is a question of how much. 


The second track negotiations have also been a means to educate the public and to safely test the popular opinion on sensitive issues.  After second track workshops both sides would often go back to their constituencies and engaged in “public diplomacy” using the media to gradually prepare the ground for the expected change or arrangement that was anticipated to be produced in first track negotiations.  This public diplomacy was witnessed before and after the Camp David summit and then Taba talks.  Many articles from both sides were published and attached with different maps, focusing on the idea of sharing Jerusalem.  In this regard, the media was instrumental in mobilizing the grass roots.  It should be mentioned though that such publicity has also occasionally been misused or misinterpreted and should thus be handled with caution.


Something does not come from nothing and we could say that without the ground made through second track negotiations, it would have been difficult to put all the ideas and positions on the negotiating table at Camp David and Taba.  Although the Israeli proposals did not meet the minimal needs of the Palestinian negotiator, the negotiations were proceeding in a positive direction. 


Thus, it is important that even in the current political context, more work be carried out on the second track negotiations in order to prepare the ground when serious official talks on final status issues resume.  However, in order that the Israeli side not be allowed to continue to exploit the differences between the Palestinian circles and in order to foster a more effective filtering system for information on the Palestinians side. It is recommended that a much broader consensus be formed on the Palestinian side on how and by whom the channels are conducted.   


The following is a summary of  topics that are pursued by the two sides in second track negotiations on the question of Jerusalem.


  1. Sovereignty:  Different definitions and forms of sovereignty were presented in an a series of sessions and workshops to arrive at an acceptable formula for sovereignty.  Examples of the ideas produced (but not necessarily agreed upon) included: suspended sovereignty, divided sovereignty and God sovereignty.


  1. The Old City:  The basic agreed upon components for the Old City included the need to preserve the unique characteristics and international dimension of the city and discussion on control and sovereignty.


  1. The Religious Aspect: This track dwelled on the non-exclusive nature of Jerusalem and its importance to the three monotheistic religions to co-exist in tolerance and harmony.  The idea of forming a religious council headed by representatives of the three religions to manage the holy sites in the city were discussed among other issues at these sessions.


  1. The Legal Arrangements:  Different models of legal arrangements were presented in these workshops.  The work focused on developing the possibility of harmonizing the two legal systems in the a shared city. 


  1. Organizational Requirements:  Different structures for the two municipalities and cooperation between the municipalities were discussed including the possibility for coordination within an open city model.


  1. Security Arrangements: Basic assumptions between the two sides were developed in these sessions as to future cooperation between two police forces and the prospects for joint policing in the buffer zones.


  1. Social and Economic Aspects:  The social level of these talks focused on providing discrete systems of health care and social insurance of equal standards between the two sides of the city.  As for the economy, issues such as the kind of policy to adopt in regard to taxes, tourism, banking, services, business centers were explored here.


  1. Settlements:  The settlements issue was raised on almost each occasion and was the main reason behind the tension and serious differences between the two sides.  The Palestinian side has always maintained the position that the settlements are illegal and that they contradict the pursuance to real co-existence and peace in Jerusalem.  The Palestinian side also insisted on the principle that, biding that Israeli wishes to keep its settlements, that whatever applies on one side be applied on the other side and that, if the settlements remain, Palestinians should also be allowed to build and live in West Jerusalem.


  1. Land Swapping:  It was in this context that the idea of “land swapping” came into being and how both sides agreed in principle to the idea of land swaps.  The Palestinian side maintains however that land swaps should be carried out in a manner that is equitable and reciprocal and that land swap criteria should take into consideration the future development potential of the land not just its size.



As we continue to move forward it is important to understand the reasons for the failure of the Oslo Accords and to learn from the histories of the past in order that we can re-build a new peace process.  It must be understood that the Palestinians could not accept the proposals at Camp David and Taba as such an offer would have created a banana republic with little opportunity for socio-economic development, inadequate control of borders and natural resources, a near total negation of the refugee question and most importantly no effective means of monitoring and enforcing the implementation of agreements. 


This unfortunate result was caused by a culmination of fundamental weaknesses in the Oslo Process. 


  1. The ongoing existential conflict that the Palestinians viewed Oslo as the means by which to implement UN Res. 242 and 338 while the Israelis viewed the process as a means to gain as much territory as possible.
  2. Preparations were not sufficient.  Interim agreements were not carried out, notably the third redeployment, the opening four safe passages between Gaza and the West Bank, the release of prisoners.
  3. With all the attention on the implementation of past interim agreements little to no effort was placed on the final status issues until the last minute at which time the U.S. coerced the Palestinian side into a Camp David style summit that was set on the precedent that the Palestinian side must concede or be condemned for its failure.


This win-lose formula was ultimately rejected by the Palestinians and led to the Palestinian disillusionment with the process as a whole.  A new process is now necessary to regenerate the momentum and the prospects for peace.  Besides increasing transparency, democratizing the process and empowering second track negotiations, it is vital to understand the Palestinian reservations in the Israeli proposals at Camp David and Taba and to gain an deeper understanding of the negotiations tools such as land swaps, the open city and the holy basin concept that will be used to bridge the gaps in the future. 


It cannot be emphasized enough that the new process must be people based. To do so the leadership on both sides must do a better job in informing the public of what transpires at the negotiations and what are the potential consequences if an agreement is reached and implemented.  Only in this way will a “peace process” have substance and only this way will a real foundation for peace be forged.


This presentation will show a series of maps to illustrate what was at stake at the Camp David and Taba negotiations.  The presentation will also give a visual description of the negotiation tools that can re-vitalize a negotiation process based on reciprocity and mechanisms to ensure the implementation of future agreements.


See Slide 1in Appendix

Sharon, Camp David, Taba - Deconstructing the Percentage Game


These maps show the Israeli proposals as shown by Ariel Sharon (40%-50%) and in the Camp David (11%) and Taba (6%) negotiations.  To give a brief description of the source of each of these maps, it is important to note that the Sharon map is a starting position made before the inclusion of Shimon Peres in the coalition. As you can see this map gives the Palestinians a very thin line of contiguity that is broken in Jerusalem and does not coincide with the Palestinian transportation network.  The map itself is a rendition of the Allon Plus plan which was an Israeli settlement plan created soon after the occupation to surround and confine Palestinian inhabited areas.


The second map is much more serious. In Camp David the Israelis offered “11.5” of the West Bank.  Before analyzing this map it is important to deconstruct how percentages are formulated on the Israeli side.  Percentages are very easy to manipulate and do not necessarily reflect real developmental options for the Palestinians.  First, regarding the formulation of percentages, they do not include Israeli defined Municipal East Jerusalem which is 72km2 and comprises approximately 1.3% of the West Bank.   This becomes much more significant when you consider that half of Israeli settlers live in this 1.3%, so when the Israelis say 80% of the settlers will be annexed, it is actually 90% and when they say 60%, it is  actually 80%.   Also it is important to note that the Israelis do not include No Man’s Land, which is also to be negotiated and comprises approximately 1.8% of the West Bank.  


The percentage game is easily manipulated, do not take them at face value and even if you do one must look at the content within the percentages.  Does this percentage give you potential for viable socio-economic development for the new state?  Does the percentage give you enough housing to shelter a population that is growing at some 3.2% annually?  Does the percentage give adequate control of the road network, of borders, of natural resources, of zoning and planning? What is its substance really?  If you look at the percentage game in Camp David and Taba, you will see that even the “6%” to be annexed by Israel would deprive Palestine of major options to regenerate the 94% on offer at Taba. 


Again looking at the differences between the Camp David and Taba Proposals.  In Camp David Israel maintained long fingers deep into the West Bank and also insisted on a large security zone along the Jordan Valley.  This would functionally divide the Palestinian West Bank into three separate units.  Also it important to note that through the Modin Settlement area near Latrun, the Shamron Block in the north would be territorially joined with the Greater Jerusalem Blocks to form one solid unit.


What happened in Taba was that Israel refined the rough edges.  They gave up the Shilo settlement east of Ariel and gave up some of the smaller finger extensions like Kedumim and Beit El but kept the interests of the large block settlements.  They also gave up a relatively small area north of the Modin settlement area that included some 50,000 Palestinian inhabitants and only three small settlements.  This formed the block fingers into two discrete areas instead of one large area.


You will see however that in all of these maps, Israeli vital interests are preserved and in all the proposals Palestinian functionality in terms of transportation and movement is blocked by the protrusion of the Shamron and Greater Jerusalem settlement blocks.  Also in all three, the lion’s share of the Israeli demand for territorial annexation is in the Jerusalem area which would deprive the area on offer for Palestinian sovereignty of major options for redevelopment if the proposal was implemented.  Now we let’s take a look at Jerusalem. 


See Slide 2 in Appendix:

Camp David Map Slide


As I stated earlier in the 11.5% on offer at Camp David II, Israel would combine the four major settlement blocks (Shomron, Givon, Adumim and Etzion) into one large block; would functionally divide the W. Bank into three parts and prevent development of major urban centers (Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Qalkiliyia). 


When analyzing the impact of Israeli proposals on Palestinian vital interests, the Task Force at the Orient House always uses the same framework.  First, regarding the area of study we always analyze the entire Jerusalem Metropolitan Area which includes Ramallah and Bethlehem as well as the three settlement blocks.  This is important because the interest of these two Palestinian urban centers are vital to the revitalization of Jerusalem and they will become one urban area in the future.  We then look at how it will effect the development of the central business district, the future socio-economic development, habitation (how many people can we actually provide shelter for in the Jerusalem area), the functionality of the city (control over its transportation network).  We then assess what Israel would gain in the same areas and thus create a fairly thorough cost-benefit analysis of the situation.


Looking at the 11.5% (excluding Israeli Municipal East Jerusalem) and how it would affect the Metropolitan Jerusalem Area.  The Israeli offer at Camp David, if it was implemented in full, would deprive Jerusalem and the country of its major economic interests in the Jerusalem area as can be seen by the white areas.  It would prevent habitation development causing the current trend of slow emigration from the city to increase and would lead to an eventual expulsion of over 100,000 Palestinians over the next 10 years, due again to the lack of habitation and economic development.  Also Israel would maintain control over the main transportation grid, notably Route 45, Route 1, and the future ring road.  There would also be no contiguity in Jerusalem with Jerusalem being split in half from the north to the south and areas such as Issawiye, Hizme, Anata would become islands surround by Israeli controls.  Not a picture of progress.


See Slide 3 in Appendix

Israeli Taba Map with Full Analysis


Taba is a substantial improvement for Palestine but still disables the majority of Palestinian strategic imperatives for creating a viable state.  It is important to note here that while no maps were presented in Camp David (the above map is an approximation), there were maps presented in Taba, so the following is an actual depiction of the Israeli position.


In Jerusalem, Palestinians are still squeezed into a situation of slow strangulation.  In Taba, the major settlement blocks including Givon, Adumim, and Etzion would have the capacity to expand between 250% to 300% over the next 15 years, while the Palestinian areas would be able to grow only slightly.  Also Israel would maintain control over all four of the economic interest areas as well as preserve control over the transportation network.   Such a scenario would squeeze the Palestinian prospects for growth, discourage economic development and encourage the trend of emigration out of the city.  Again this was given in a “take it or leave it” manner by the Israeli side.


Also in Taba, the negotiation tools that were developed in second track negotiations came into play, some for the first time.  Issues like the “Holy Basin” and the Open City as well as more serious options for land swaps were discussed.  The following is an analysis of these tools, their potentials and dangers.


Negotiation Tools


Israeli Proposed Expansions in West Jerusalem or Potential Land Swap Area


Land swaps have been accepted in principle by both sides and are a mean to help resolve the issue of settlements.  However, unlike the Israeli proposal to exchange extremely valuable areas in Jerusalem for a toxic waste sites in the Helutza sands in the Negev, we propose the idea of equitable and reciprocal land swaps.  Only areas that have the same value and fit Palestinian development needs should be considered for land swap options.


Swappable areas in this map include those areas that are close to the green line.  They do not currently have Israeli built-up areas in them and so no citizens would be forced to move, it would be simply a re-drawing of national borders.  Also if you take for instance the area in the south-west above Bethlehem, this area is old Palestinian village property and its former inhabitants are now living in Deheisha refugee camp and other camps.  If this area was given back a large portion of refugees could return to their actual villages without infringing on the Israeli demographic concern. It would also give Bethlehem an urban hinterland and improve its socio-economic potential as well as that of the Jerusalem Metropolitan Area.  Israel would also benefit from such an exchange since it could annex settlements of equal value that are near the Green Line.   The attractive features of the land swap option is that it touches on almost all the issues from borders to refugees and provides a win-win scenario and a much greater room for maneuverability in the negotiations.


If Israel does not want to do this, then it must move the settlers from East Jerusalem into these areas of proposed expansion.  If one calculates the areas of proposed expansion in the west using figures of the Israeli Development Authority, you can see that there is approximately as many settlers in Greater Jerusalem as there are room for potential development areas in the western areas of Metropolitan Jerusalem.  


Before moving on to the “Holy Basin” concept, it is important to show the importance of the area to the Israeli plans. As can be seen by the road system and the placement of the settlement blocks to the North, East and South of Jerusalem, the Israeli Holy Basin is the hub or anchor the Jerusalem settlement blocks, cutting Palestinian areas into wedges and squeezing them out of the city.  These wedges concentrate Palestinian control into densely populated areas while leaving greater under-developed areas to the outskirts of the city, thereby encouraging Palestinians to move out of the center of the city.  Without the control over the Old City, Palestinian control of their built-up and immediate planning area would swell in the middle, destroying the wedging effect designed by Israel to impose their control in the city.


Old City and the Holy Basin


What is the Holy Basin idea and where did it come from.  The history of the Holy Basin starts very recently in second track negotiations wherein the Israeli side proposed the idea of a Holy Basin to include all the major holy sites and to create free access and protection of holy sites.


Politically however it was adopted by official negotiations as a means of justifying Israeli claims to sovereignty in an area which is dominantly Palestinians.  If one uses demography, as did President Clinton in statements after the Camp David Summit, as the main deciding factor for dividing areas of sovereign control, then Israel has a very weak argument in the area of the “holy basin”. In the Old City alone, using conservative Israeli statistics, Palestinians number 29,000 and 2,900 Jews. That is a ratio of over 10 to 1. If you use the Palestinian statistic of 34,000 Palestinians that ration grows to 12 to 1 and if you take in its immediate environs that statistic grows yet again.  With such demographic inferiority in the heart of the city, the Israelis have begun to use control over their religious sites as a means to justify claims to sovereignty.


In the Taba negotiations, areas of the “Holy Basin” were defined officially for the first time.  The areas Israel wanted to include under its sovereignty included the Jewish and Armenian Quarters in the Old City, the Hinnom Valley (Village of David outside Jaffa Gate), Mt. Zion, the Offel Gardens (the archeological site in Silwan), the Jewish Cemetery, the Muslim Cemetery on the eastern wall of the city and the settlement area of Shimon Sedik in Sheikh Jarrah.    This area would encompass all of the Old City and would dilute Palestinian claims to sovereignty in the area.  If such an arrangement were implemented Israel could block the implementation of needed development plans for the Old City and its environs: notably the expansion of the central business district and highway access to the Old City and the Central Business District from the east. 


Looking at future development options for the Old City and its environs, we can see that the Old City does not have any adequate access roads, accept for the over-congested Route Number 1 which lies both inside the green line and on no man’s land.  If the Old City is to remain the heart of Arab East Jerusalem, it must have an improved eastern access road that feeds into an expanded central business district that encompasses Salah a-Din Street, Bab al-Zahra, Wadi Joz and the Mt. Of Olives.  This access road can be created if proper additions are made to the current Route 16 which pass underneath Mt. Scopus.


The Palestinian side must be extremely careful if and when it decides to negotiate seriously on the Holy Basin.  In order to secure an agreement, the Israeli side will have to be assured of access to and a degree of control but this does entail that Israel gets sovereignty over these areas. Rather, a more conducive agreement would include  Israeli custodianship over Jewish holy sites which would give them full control over the site itself without sovereignty.  As far as access is concerned, this issue is adequately addressed in the open city concept, which has been accepted in principle by both sides.


Open City


The Open City idea follows the principle that Jerusalem must become one free access city and be shared as the capital of two states.  How is this possible and how does it compare to its antithesis, the closed city?


Several boundaries for the open city are currently in discussion and each have particular advantages and disadvantages.  In principle, sovereignty in the open city would be demarcated by the borders of June the 4th 1967 with Palestinian institutions of government being primarily on the eastern side of the city and Israeli on the western side.  Also in principle, all persons in either the Palestinian West Bank or in Israel would not be impeded from access to the Open City but in exiting the Open City the person would be subject to the same checks as at a national border crossing.  


As far as specific boundaries, there are several, each with its distinct advantages and disadvantages.


  1. The Old City and its Environs: the small area makes it relatively easy to enforce and monitor both in terms of security and economic trade but it would be incredibly burdensome in terms of congestion for access, it would also not coincide with municipal services, planning and zoning. 


  1. The Future Ring Road: would allow a clearly defined highway to be the border, equidistant on both sides of the city, easily enforceable through patrols and access points but it would not take into consideration functional arrangements, municipal services, demographics and would divide several residential areas.


  1. Functional Area of the Municipal Boundaries of the City: this area would include a slightly modified version of the current municipal boundaries of the city.  The advantages of this boundary would be that it coincides directly with municipal arrangements, zoning and planning. It would decrease the amount of traffic congestion and coincide with commuting patterns and demographics.  There would also be a optimal space for economic development although special economic arrangements would have to be made for this area as it would be internally a free trade zone between the Israeli West and the Palestinian East.


  1. Urbanized Area including Bethlehem and Ramallah:  Minimizes the amount of interference for entering and moving in Jerusalem.  Allows for a greater integration of the Metropolitan Area at a regional level that is currently practiced in a de facto manner between the three cities.  Its disadvantages though are that it increases the number of checkpoints and, if demographics are taken into consideration, it would also have to allow Israel to expand westwards or include settlement blocks in East Jerusalem. 


The open city idea allows for socio-economic development, freedom of movement, freedom to access the holy sites for all people.  It is the only option that allows the city to be a truly integrated city, as the capital of two states.  A closed city, on the other hand, would make Jerusalem a divided city, split into enclaves and divide Palestinians and Israelis into a maze of by-pass roads, bridges and tunnels.  Also within the current setting, if Israel is allowed to keep the major settlement blocks within a closed city, it will gain the lions share of the city, including the valued economic areas as well as habitation and transportation.  In day to day life, Palestinians would no longer be allowed to shop on Jaffa Street and Israelis no longer allowed to visit the Christian Quarter in the Old City. 


Implementation Mechanism


The implementation mechanism is one of the most important issues in negotiations and perhaps given the least focus.  It is well evident from the experience of the Oslo Process that the Israelis have difficulty implementing past agreements.  Again, it is not so important that each side trust the other completely, more important, is that there are safeguards in place that will ensure that agreements are implemented in full by both sides and gives guarantees that each side will not prejudice the outcome of an agreement. 


A mechanism must therefore be established wherein a third party, possibly a multinational force, be created to both monitor and enforce the implementation of agreements on both sides and be given the mandate to enforce those agreements through various means. Such a force has been discussed by various Palestinian and international circles as a way of de-escalating the current Intifada.  However, an international force at this time would more than like have a weak and unclear mandate (unless the international community would suddenly decide to implement UN Resolution 242 and 338) and would do more harm than good. 


However, biding that there is an agreement between the two sides an international force is vital to giving guarantees that the agreement will be implemented and in keeping the peace.  If an adequate implementation mechanism is not created, the process of interim agreements upon interim agreements will inevitably continue and we will be fated to repeat history.


Concluding Remarks


To sum up the main points of the presentation:


  1. Palestinians and Israelis alike must accept that political sovereignty cannot be legislated over questions of faith.  This is dominantly a political negotiations and must not become a battle between religions.


  1. The religious centrality of Jerusalem cannot be used to obfuscate the national context.


  1. As there is no conclusive historical or archeological evidence proving that Jerusalem was ever the political capital of any distinct nation, especially a modern nation, the Palestinians reject any attempt to deligitimize their national connection to Jerusalem on the basis of this argument.


  1. Neither side desires a return of Jerusalem to the status quo ante of 1949-67.  However, the Palestinians will not accept a unified city on any basis other than full national equality and will accept nothing less than a viable and prosperous capital.


  1. Full integration requires equal and unlimited access to all areas of the city in terms of unrestricted movement and freedom to invest as well as accessibility and protection of all religious sites.


  1. The sensitivity of the Jerusalem question requires a solution be built on three premises:


i)        Jerusalem cannot be divided physically as such a division would be mutually detrimental.

ii)      Without both Israeli and Palestinian sovereignty in Jerusalem, there will be no permanent peace without sharing both the territorial aspects and those pertaining to its future socio-economic and political development.

iii)     Religious, ethnic and cultural identities cannot be negotiated and should therefore Jerusalem must become an open city that maintains its pluralistic and universal character.


One could infer that through a strategy based on UN Resolution 242 and 338 and with the principle of equitable reciprocity along with tactics of disengagement and phasing, the Palestinians can engage in a realistic and productive negotiations with the Israelis. 


Thank you for listening.