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Two Capitals in an Undivided Jerusalem

Courtesy Reuters

The long-awaited Middle East peace process has begun, and the parties, through direct negotiations, have started their pursuit of a settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian question. In their letter of invitation the cosponsors, the United States and the Soviet Union, stated that they "are prepared to assist the parties to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement, through direct negotiations ... based on U.N. Security Council resolutions 242 and 338." The internationally accepted formula for the application of these two long-standing resolutions is "land for peace."

Between 1948, the year of Israel’s establishment, and the war of 1967, when the Israeli army occupied all of mandate Palestine and other Arab territories belonging to Egypt and Syria, the Arab?Israeli conflict was viewed as being composed of three major issues: mutual recognition of the parties involved; the status of Jerusalem; and the right of repatriation or compensation for Palestinian refugees. Bipolarization was at its peak, and unfortunately there were no serious international efforts at solving the conflict. It was hoped that after the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including the refugees, were addressed, the Arabs would recognize the Jewish state, and peace treaties would ultimately be signed. After the 1967 war the U.N. Security Council passed resolution 242 as the basis for solving the conflict: Israel would return land it occupied in 1967 in return for peace and recognition. However, with its own interpretation of resolution 242, which I regard as self?serving, Israel’s occupation was prolonged, its attitudes hardened and it introduced other factors that further complicated the conflict. Chief among these was the incessant practice of building Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, thus disrupting the cardinal formula of "land for peace" and intensifying the Palestinian national identity, which made the Palestinian people look for a solution beyond resolution 242.

What is now required is a genuine effort to avoid entanglement in details and discussion of peripheral issues. I propose that we proceed to the heart of the matter.

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