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In view of the political complexities of Jerusalem, what is the most desirable course of action that Israel's national authorities should take in regard to the city that is of such central concern to Jews, Christians and Muslims?
We must act on the assumption that, given the realities of the Middle East today, it will be a very long time before any Arab leader or ruler of stature may be willing to negotiate, let alone sign, a document on a united Jerusalem with a Jewish majority-no matter what concessions Israel may offer on such issues as independent control of the Muslim Holy Places or local autonomy for the city's Arab residents.
Therefore, what Israel must do in Jerusalem is very clear. We must recognize that Jerusalem will be among the last items on the agenda as the Middle East's problems are solved, and we must strive in the meantime to make the quality of life for all people in the city as attractive as we possibly can.
In July 1977, writing for Foreign Affairs on the tenth anniversary of the reunification of Jersusalem, I listed four principles that guided our actions in administering our city. These principles were put forth as follows:
1. There shall be free access to all the Holy Places irrespective of nationality and they shall be administered by their adherents.
2. Everything possible shall be done to ensure unhindered development of the Arab way of life in the Arab sections of the city and ensure Muslims and Christians a practical religious, cultural and commercial governance over their own daily lives.
3. Everything possible should be done to ensure equal governmental, municipal and social services in all parts of the city.
4. Continuing efforts should be made to increase cultural, social and economic contacts among the various elements of Jerusalem's population, while preserving the cultural and even the national identity of each group.
Four years later, these principles have proved themselves well and continue as the basis for our policies, thriving independent of the international or the Middle Eastern scene. Even the July 1980 passage of the Jerusalem Law, confirming the fact that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, while it had widespread negative repercussions on the international scene and while 13 embassies moved to Tel Aviv, did not affect everyday life in the city. I had personally objected to the Jerusalem Law as unnecessary and needlessly provocative; but once its passage seemed assured, I appeared before the Knesset Law Committee and at my request a paragraph was added as follows: "The Holy Places shall be protected against any desecration or any other sacrilege or anything which is apt to interfere with the freedom of access of all religious adherents to their Holy Places or to injure their feelings towards these places."
This important clause was entirely ignored in the international reaction to the law, as were the circumstances that originally led the Knesset to take up the question of Jerusalem. These consisted of a series of provocations, most notably two resolutions of the Egyptian Parliament. The resolution of April 1, 1980, reads: "Arab Jerusalem is an integral part of the West Bank, which was occupied by military force. Action must be taken to preserve the historical and legal Arab rights in the city in their entirety . . . . All the steps that have been taken by Israel to alter the identity, the demographic composition and the geographic structure of the city are illegal, null and void and non-binding." One of the other seven paragraphs of the statement, all in the same vein, specifically calls for "the abolition of the Israeli steps that have been taken in Jerusalem."
The resolution passed by the Egyptian People's Assembly on July 1, 1980 is shorter but even more extreme. It declares: "Jerusalem must be under Arab sovereignty. . . . Jerusalem must be regarded as the capital of the Palestinians." The Jerusalem Law was adopted by the Knesset on July 30, 1980, a full month after this second declaration of the Egyptian Parliament.
In fact, the Jerusalem Law only restates the well-established and well-publicized Israeli position that the undivided city of Jerusalem is, and remains, the capital of Israel. That this has now been entered on the statute books adds nothing to the national consensus underlying it and detracts nothing from its unenforceability under international law. It amounts to this only: that the position previously taken by several successive governments and repeatedly endorsed by resolutions of the legislature has now also received formal legislative endorsement.
Like many other Israelis, I hold this legislative act to be entirely superfluous because legislation ought to be enacted for normative purposes only, and this particular piece of legislation simply states facts or postulates, but does not create, norms. If its sponsors desired to stir up world attention to the Jerusalem issue and the Israeli position on it, they have certainly attained their purpose; if they desired to bring about any actual change in the legal status of Jerusalem, they have singularly failed.
I am happy to place on record the sensible reaction of Jerusalem's citizens, Arabs and Jews alike, of largely ignoring the law. This highly reasonable attitude contrasted sharply with the gross overreaction outside Israel, particularly in the United Nations and in Europe. The law was maliciously misrepresented by deliberately ignoring the Holy Places clause as well as by insinuating that there was something in the law that had not previously been proclaimed in various forms and that did not truly reflect the facts as they exist on the ground in Jerusalem.
While the problems of this area have changed considerably since 1977, following the peace treaty with Egypt, international complications regarding Jerusalem have not eased. Israel is determined to maintain a united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, while continuing to give the Arabs and the various religious communities the wide freedom of speech which is reflected in Jerusalem by the only free Arab press in the Middle East; freedom of religion; freedom of education; and freedom of access and movement, which results annually in the visits of 150,000-200,000 Arabs from countries still at war with Israel. These freedoms are based on the self-denial of our own sovereign rights in these fields. These unilateral acts have been taken because we believe on principle in these democratic and religious freedoms for everyone.
On the other hand, to divide sovereignty geographically according to the lines of 1967 without erecting walls and barbed wire, as proposed by some Arab groups, is not a viable proposition. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat spoke of divided sovereignty in a united city. This simply cannot work. The proposition is a contradiction. Two legal systems? Two police forces? The barbed wire and the mines would soon return.
Internationalization was still discussed in 1977; now it is barely a whisper and surely is not broached by any eminent or responsible group. The Vatican, the prime mover behind this proposition in 1947-48, has for some time now been doubting its viability and has reverted to using a different formula. While the present Pope, His Holiness John Paul II, has stressed on several occasions that Jerusalem should be the center of the three monotheistic religions, the thrust of the current Vatican stand is the contention that Jerusalem should not be under the exclusive control of any one of them. The Vatican continues to demand international guarantees to assure free access to the Holy Places. This attitude deliberately ignores the tremendous (and visibly successful) efforts made by the present city administration to improve the condition of the Christian Holy Places to a degree never previously achieved. The complete freedom of access now practiced could not possibly be further enhanced by some complicated framework of international guarantees or supervision-although there might well be ways of formalizing, by agreements with the various Christian churches, the de facto arrangements already existing, which have worked to the satisfaction of all concerned. All religions in Jerusalem oversee the personal affairs, e.g., marriages and divorces, of their own members.
In this context, it must be borne in mind that, important and accepted as it is, the Roman Catholic Church is only one among more than 30 Christian denominations that are represented in the city, of which the Greek Orthodox is the oldest and holds more than 50-percent ownership of the Holy Places. The Municipality, always in unison with the government of Israel, has done everything to strengthen the presence and activities of the Christian communities, particularly regarding education, housing and community work.
We respect and indeed welcome all those who are genuinely concerned for the peace and freedom of Jerusalem. We cannot but question the motives of those others who were silent for 19 years while the Jordanians desecrated synagogues and Jewish cemeteries, barred Jews of all nationalities and Israelis of all religions from East Jerusalem, despite the provisions of the armistice agreement, and who are now so vocal in demanding guarantees for the freedom of access which Israel introduced where it did not exist before.
We believe that ours is the most tolerant regime this city has ever seen, but there is no doubt that the situation puts a psychological strain on the Arab community. The city has a Jewish majority, which is actually not a new phenomenon and has existed in modern times for at least 140 years. Unfortunately, Jerusalem Arabs' formal participation in municipal government has so far been prevented both by their fear of terrorism by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and their refusal-going back to the 1930s-to participate in a Jewish-run Municipality.
To discuss the future of Jerusalem with local Arab leaders is more complex than one would imagine because of PLO threats against even the most patriotic Arab moderates who would dare in any way to lend a semblance of legitimacy to Israeli rule. Thus one often finds a wide gap between the public and private opinions voiced, between degrees of cooperation on the surface and degrees of cooperation beneath the surface. Even if privately many local Arab leaders are as much opposed to the PLO as ever, their public reply would have to be along the lines of PLO involvement.
Nevertheless, in the most recent municipal elections in 1978, despite constant threats of PLO violence against the Arab populace, 40 percent of the male electorate did vote (Arab custom discourages female suffrage). This figure speaks for itself. The same pattern was borne out more recently when Jerusalem Arabs again took an active part in the April 1981 elections for the Histadrut, Israel's trade union federation.
The mood of the city has changed in these last few years, sometimes for the better but not always so. For one thing, there has been an increased religious awareness among Jews, Christians and Muslims; but Jews and Arabs, while living next to each other, have not grown much closer. Many Jewish families who came from Arab countries often have unhappy memories of the regimes whose oppressive and discriminatory measures they escaped and whom they sometimes cannot help but identify with Arabs here. On the other hand, no matter how much Jerusalem's Arabs may, in their heart of hearts, appreciate the economic upswing, the tranquillity, the improved educational and municipal facilities, the massive tourism of the united city, few Arabs can be expected to be enthusiastic about the perpetuation of their status as a minority and the absence of a long-term political solution for the area or the city. And the current inflation has also somewhat reduced the economic gains from which they have benefited.
Polls taken periodically since 1967 show a slight hardening of attitudes among Jews and among Arabs toward each other; and both sides are less willing to make concessions, particularly of a symbolic character, about the future status of the city. Yet the most recent survey shows distinctly positive results in terms of the satisfaction of the people with city services and with the general atmosphere in Jerusalem. Special projects have been particularly appreciated by the Arab populace-for example, the restoration work on the Old City Wall and the reconstruction of Damascus Gate, the beautiful Islamic structure which had deteriorated in the 19 years of Jordanian rule, which was hidden behind accumulated rubble and car parks, and which is now being made visible again in a very dramatic fashion.
And the fact remains-and cannot be repeated often enough-that between 1948 and 1967, despite its high birthrate, the Arab population in Jerusalem did not increase because of the limited economic opportunities which led to considerable emigration by both Muslims and Christians, particularly the better educated and the skilled. Jerusalem was then a dead-end city. But since 1967, the Arab population has increased by 90 percent. The Arabs feel secure in Jerusalem. This security relates to a largely satisfactory regulation of their day-to-day life. It enables them to live more comfortably and for an extended period with the present situation. It does not mean that they have given up hope that Arab and international pressure might ultimately force upon Israel some (as yet intangible) arrangement that would enable them to retain the benefits of the current situation and yet fit into a political pattern more compatible with their national aspirations.
It will also be remembered that, during the 19 years of the Jordanian occupation, the number of Christians living in Jerusalem dropped from 25,000 to 9,000. In the 14 years since the reunification of Jerusalem, this number has grown to 12,000-proportionately less than the Arabs and Jews but nevertheless the first reversal since the large Christian exodus started about 1900.
With all the changes relating to the political scene in the Middle East, from the positive to the negative, I believe firmly that the "problem" of Jerusalem can only be solved in the very last stages of negotiations. In the interim, we must make every effort to maintain and even improve the quality of life in the city, with the Arab minority aware that its situation is continually improving. And to this end, all efforts are expended with, thus far, good results.
To give an example, in the period of April 1979-April 1980, there were 56 terrorist attempts against the Jewish population in Jerusalem; because of public awareness, only a few devices exploded. In the period of April 1980-April 1981, despite the unfortunate increase in such activities in the West Bank, the number in Jerusalem was reduced to 24. With the exception of a few minor incidents involving youngsters, none of the terrorists was a Jerusalemite.
We continue to take steps that will smooth the path of the daily life of the Arab community. In fact, as the Arabs do not officially sit on the City Council, we have found ways to initiate many programs without their being compromised for officially negotiating with the "enemy."
We started some years ago to change the Arab educational system to the Jordanian curriculum (plus the addition of Hebrew and civics courses), enabling all Arab youngsters to take the Arab League matriculation. This followed the disastrous attempt by the Israeli Ministry of Education to use the curriculum of the Israeli Arab community, which led to pupils moving to schools in Ramallah or Bethlehem, where the Jordanian curriculum was maintained by the Israel military government. The Jordanian curriculum, with the deletion only of the anti-Semitic passages in the textbooks, was first reinstated in the Jerusalem high schools and then the junior high schools, and with the coming school year will be applied in the elementary schools as well.
In 1977, we made plans for an Arab health clinic that would be geared specially to the Arab population and its specific medical and public-health needs. The clinic would be staffed by Arab doctors and administrative personnel but at the same time would have available to it the support system of the nearby Hadassah Hospital. This is now becoming a reality. By 1982, we plan to open the first wing, comprising the departments of preventive medicine and public health, the children's clinic, the general clinic, the X-ray department, and possibly the department of psychiatry.
Yet the psychological strain between a majority and a minority is always constant even if latent, certainly in our circumstances where enmity is continually stirred by outside elements. A minor grievance always becomes a grudge, a major achievement is always taken for granted. In order to minimize this strain and live with it, all residents of the city must be assured that what they have attained will not be eroded. As the Jews are the majority and form the governing body, they are, of course, less worried. To the Arab community, assurance must be much more clear-cut and definite. If all the positive measures actually taken could be legally guaranteed, this would be a vital step. If there were also a declaration on the part of the Israeli government that no additional land will be compulsorily purchased for Jewish housing, one of the great sources of tension would be removed. Such a move would be compatible with the existing plans for the city's expansion within its present municipal limits up to a total population of 650,000-700,000 in the next 20 years. Hence, there should be no objective bar to a declaration to that effect by the government of Israel. With present landholdings, Jews as well as Arabs could grow to their respective numbers, maintaining more or less the present population ratio.
Jerusalem, like all of Israel's cities, is still subject to local government legislation based on the British Municipal Code of 1934, which in turn is derived from the Indian Municipal Code of 1904. In the good old British imperial tradition, it virtually concentrates all power and authority in the hands of the national government and makes the cities dependent on national resources and priorities. If this cannot at present be changed in relation to all of Israel's towns, it is to be hoped that the new Israeli government can be persuaded to enact legislation to grant Jerusalem special status, such as other capital cities around the world enjoy. Detailed proposals in that direction are now under active preparation. Their purpose would be to delegate to the city powers now held by the government, especially in such areas as housing, education, health and social services. Once the authority over these and other local functions rests with the city, the way will be open for the creation of neighborhood agencies and other local organizations and the delegation to them of municipal responsibilities in many aspects of everyday life; and legal guarantees for religious and other civil liberties could be undertaken by the city in matters for which the Knesset might find it difficult to legislate.
The problems of Jerusalem must also be seen in the context of the complications faced by urban centers throughout the world. Problems of heterogeneous cities can never be solved easily and quickly, whatever their character: not in the great American cities, not in Brussels, not in Belfast, not in Beirut. And now violence has even spread to dignified old established homogeneous cities from Amsterdam to Zurich. Such violence is unknown in Jerusalem. But instead of manifesting some satisfaction at what has been accomplished in a city that is so dear to everyone, the international community appears to be searching relentlessly for causes or pretexts to criticize and malign.
Other heterogeneous cities are complex and their problems may even be insoluble, but I am convinced that the issues in Jerusalem can be solved if people of goodwill can be fair-minded and determined to resolve their problems together.
Many caring people have come up with a vast variety of plans to deal with these problems. I, for one, have envisioned a future structure in Jerusalem under which the city would be governed through a network of boroughs modeled on the boroughs of London. More recently, Dr. Daniel J. Elazar, the Minneapolis-born Professor of Political Studies and head of the Institute of Local Government at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, has written:
Jerusalem has done as well as or better than any city in the modern world in the development of means to govern heterogeneous populations . . . . it is appropriate to assume that Jerusalem will remain an undivided city and under Israeli control-exclusive for most of the city and perhaps shared for certain sites or parts . . . . For example, Jerusalem could be established as a capital district within Israel; this would give it an organic law of its own, including provisions for extraterritorial status for certain sites or residents within its boundaries. As a capital district, it would become the equivalent of a county within which separate municipalities could be established. Then most municipal services would be provided to the municipalities by the capital district government on a contractual basis, and the municipalities' primary function would be to provide political expression for specific populations or neighborhoods within the larger whole. In addition, various functional authorities could be established to serve those communal needs that are not clearly geographically defined. The council governing the overall district could be elected on an area basis; that is, by dividing the entire jurisdiction into districts and electing all or most council members from them.1
My point is that people of goodwill are continually seeking to solve Jerusalem's problems peacefully and constructively. In the meantime, the most positive course we can continue to follow is that of deepening and expanding the promising pattern of practical yet harmonious coexistence that has been established in Jerusalem with so much painstaking care and in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. In this way, we can not only make the long interim period, be it five or ten or even 15 years, tolerable and profitable for Jerusalem's Arabs on the human and economic level, but also-gently but firmly-point in the direction of a broader resolution of the Middle East conflict, proving that Jews and Arabs can live and work together, preserving values and sites that are sacred to both and that matter so much more than the hatred and strife of political emotion.
1 Daniel J. Elazar, "Local Government for Heterogeneous Populations: Some Options for Jerusalem," in Jerusalem Problems and Prospects, edited by Joel L. Kraemer, introduction by Teddy Kollek, New York: Praeger Publishers, 1980.