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Jerusalem is more than a holy city built of stone. Domain of Muslims, Jews, and Christians, Jerusalem is a perpetual contest, and its shrines, housing projects, and bulldozers compete in a scramble for possession. Now one of Jerusalem's most respected authorities presents a history of the city that does not fall prey to any one version of its past.
Meron Benvenisti begins with a reflection on the 1996 celebration of Jerusalem's 3000-year anniversary as the capital of the Kingdom of Israel. He then juxtaposes eras, dynasties, and rulers in ways that provide grand comparative insights. But unlike recent politically motivated histories written to justify the claims of Jews and Arabs now living in Jerusalem, Benvenisti has no such agenda. His history is a polyphonic story that lacks victors as well as vanquished. He describes the triumphs and defeats of all the city's residents, from those who walk its streets today to the meddlesome ghosts who linger in its shadows.
Benvenisti focuses primarily on the twentieth century, but ancient hatreds are constantly discovered just below the surface. These hostilities have created intense social, cultural, and political interactions that Benvenisti weaves into a compelling human story. For him, any claim to the city means recognizing its historical diversity and multiple populations.
A native son of Jerusalem, Benvenisti knows the city well, and his integrated history makes clear that all of Jerusalem's citizens have enriched the Holy City in the past. It is his belief that they can also do so in the future.
On Monday, September 4, 1995—the ninth day of the month of Elul in the year A.H. 5755 (according to the Jewish calendar)—the Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin officially opened the celebrations marking the 3,000th anniversary of the establishment of Jerusalem as capital of the Kingdom of Israel. Lasting fifteen months, the festivities focused on the founder of the House of David, who conquered the Jebusite city of Jerusalem and made it the temporal and spiritual capital of his people. "King David's many-faceted personality—musician, warrior, statesman, poet/singer and dancer, as well as king and lover—," stated the official program for the festivities, "will provide the inspiration for an entire year of cultural events." Prime Minister Rabin stood on the stage erected for the occasion at the recently opened archeological park in "David's City" and declared: "Jerusalem is the celebration of the glory of the Jewish people from the day it was created in the Image of God. She is its heart and the apple of its eye; and our festivities here today are only meant to once again elevate Jerusalem 'above our chiefest joy,' as was the custom of ourfathers and forefathers."
The information sheets distributed to the invited guests stated: "No other people designated Jerusalem as its capital in such an absolute andbinding manner—Jerusalem is the concrete historical expression of the Jewish religion and its heritage on the one hand and of the independence and sovereignty of the Jewish people on the other. Jerusalem's identity as a spiritual and national symbol at one and the same time has forged the unique and eternal bond between this city and the Jewish people, a bond that has no parallel in the annals of the nations. Israel's rule over the united city has allowed her to bloom and prosper, and despite the problems between the communities within her, she has not enjoyed such centrality and importance since her days as the capital of the Kingdom of Israel."
The ceremony that launched the events marking "3,000 Years of Jerusalem, City of David" took place in the presence of some 200 invited guests, all of them members of the Jewish establishment from Israel and abroad. For "security reasons" a solid wall of security personnel barred entry to the residents of the Arab neighborhood in which the park is situated. After all, the site of the City of David is located in the heart of Silwan, an Arab neighborhood with a population of 30,000. Ironically, the houses nearest to the site where the opening ceremonies took place have recently been the scene of sporadic violent confrontations between Jews and Arabs, and in 199192 a group of Jewish fanatics, assisted by the police, took over several Arab buildings and forcibly ejected their inhabitants.
One Arab resident of Silwan, who had Jewish settlers forced upon him as neighbors, watched the proceedings in bewilderment. He had no idea of the nature of the sudden visit by the prime minister and the mayor. An Israeli journalist who was recording the reactions of the Arab population to the "Jerusalem 3,000" celebrations explained the meaning of the ceremony to him. The Arab, an employee of an East Jerusalem research institute, pulled out a Palestinian history book and read the following passages aloud: "The Philistines, who came from Crete and Asia Minor, merged with the Canaanites, who originated from the Arabian peninsula, and gave the land its name, Falastin. The Jebusites, a Canaanite people, are the ancestors of thePalestinians. Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but a 'believer in one God.' The twelve sons of Jacob fled to Egypt, interbred with the Egyptians there and became numerous. Moses and his followers wandered in the desert; they were not endowed with any scientific or artistic talents and made no cultural achievements whatsoever. Hence they were influenced by the Canaanites and imitated their religious beliefs .
"Warfare between the Israelites and the Philistines (Palestinians) continued for hundreds of years, and the Bible confirms that the land's inhabitants, who were of Arabian origin, succeeded in zealously maintaining their independence and culture. Jerusalem has been the capital of our Palestinian Arab homeland ever since it was built by our ancestors, the Jebusites and the Arab Canaanites, in the heart of Falastin. The Arab presence in Jerusalem was never interrupted, in contrast to the Jewish presence, which disappeared. The Arabs tenaciously remained under the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, and the Byzantines. There has been Arab rule in Jerusalem and in Palestine ever since the seventh century (except for the Crusader period). The Arab-Muslim tradition was preserved, and flourished under the Muslim Arab dynasties—the Omayyads, the Abassids, the Fatamids, the Seljuks, the Mamluks, the Ottomans until the British conquest of 1917.
"Even your prophets say that you and your king, David, were foreign occupiers," commented the Arab. "This is what the prophet Ezekiel says: 'Thus saith the Lord God to Jerusalem: Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite and thy mother a Hittite'" (Ezek. 16:3).
Had circumstances been reversed and had Jerusalem been under Palestinian sovereignty, the authorities would have been organizing a "Jebusite Festival" to mark Jerusalem's 5,000th anniversary. During this festival, they would have depicted their historical mydis in speech and music, exactly as the Israelis did with their celebration of 3,000 years of the City of David. Who is right? The question is superfluous. The chroniclesof Jerusalem are a gigantic quarry from which each side has mined stones for the construction of its myths—and for throwing at each other.
The Museum of the City of Jerusalem is located in a fortress called David's Citadel. The citadel, which guards Jaffa Gate and the western section of the Old City walls, is, in its present form, a Mamluk-Ottoman structure, built in the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries. But its foundations, and one tower in particular, date back to earlier periods: Hasmonean, Herodian, and Crusader. The largest of the site's six towers is the Tower of Phasael, which was built by King Herod and was not destroyed at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in A.D. 70. The Romans left this huge tower as evidence of the strength of the Jewish city's fortifications, which they had succeeded in overpowering. The architecturally most famous part of the fortress is a mosque crowned by a minaret, used for hundreds of years by the soldiers stationed here. This structure, called the Tower of David, has come to symbolize the city of Jerusalem, its silhouette adorning numerous engravings, paintings, and posters. The museum catalogue emphatically states: "This is the symbol of the longing and yearning for the Holy Land. Life has gone on here continuously for two thousand years." The catalogue does not mention whose life.
And indeed, it is this continuity of life in Jerusalem that the Museum of the City of Jerusalem depicts. The earliest date mentioned on the chronological charts that guide the visitor through the museum is 3150 B.C. , which is designated as the beginning of the Canaanite period (approximately 30001200 B.C. ). Perhaps as a way of combatting the Canaanite-Philistine myth, the space devoted to this period—located before the entrance to the first exhibition hall—is small and exposed to sun and rain. Copies of two or three Canaanite and Egyptian artifacts sum up a period of some 2,000 years and together serve as an introduction to what the museum's designers perceive as the real beginning of Jerusalem's history: its conquest by King David.
It is hard to estimate the extent to which the Palestinians themselves believe the Canaanite-Philistine myth, and one hopes that this absurdattempt to give a historical basis to their claim to Jerusalem is simply a political argument that they themselves do not take seriously. After all, some of their Jewish rivals, calling themselves "the Canaanites," have also sought to identify themselves with the indigenous tribes of the Land of Israel/Palestine while dissociating themselves from the "diaspora Judaism" of the intervening period, of which they are ashamed. The myth of the healthy and complex-free "native-born Israeli" who springs from the soil of the homeland involves rejection of the diaspora and has led a number of Israeli intellectuals to erase the memory of 3,000 years of Jewish history and to view themselves as the direct descendants of the Canaanites. Similarly, Maronite Christian Arabs in Lebanon, wishing to deny the Arab connection, have declared themselves to be Phoenicians—descendants of the ancient seafaring people who ruled the Mediterranean from Tyre to Carthage.
But even if the Palestinians take the Canaanite connection with a grain of salt, they have good reason to reflect—as they tour the Museum of the City of Jerusalem—on the fact that history is written by victors, and not the vanquished. On the chronological charts and in the exhibits, the name "Arab" does not appear. Even the accepted designation of the period beginning with the Arab conquest in A.D. 638 and concluding with the Crusader conquest of 1099—the Early Arab Period—was changed not long ago to the Early Muslim Period: it is easier to define the Arabs as Muslims, for there is no "Muslim nation." But there is, of course, a Jewish nation. The Omayyad, Abbasid, Fatamid, Ayoubid, Mamluk, and Ottoman dynasties—all of them Muslim—which ruled Jerusalem for nearly thirteen hundred years (6381917, except for the Crusader period) appear in the museum chronology by their individual names, thereby turning the city's history into what appears to be a chronology of "foreign" conquerors. Thus one may ignore the Arab identity of the city's inhabitants throughout all that time and the fact that the Arab community played an integral part in the administration of this "foreign rule." There is no need to chronicle the history of the city itself, its institutions, and its publicfigures; nor is there any need to come to terms with the fact that in the pre-nationalist era, Arabs from Jerusalem held positions throughout the entire Arab world—as government officials in Damascus, Cairo, Istanbul, and beyond, some even serving as governors of Ottoman districts in Iraq and Yemen. Hence, this was not merely a "foreign regime," as it is portrayed in David's Citadel.
In contrast to this historical perspective, when the subject is the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, the museum emphasizes the physical presence of the Jewish community, providing demographic data and describing the nationalist and religious aspirations of the Jewish people in the diaspora toward Jerusalem. This is not surprising. After all, if one treats the history of Jerusalem in terms of regimes, it becomes clear that Jewish rule in Jerusalem spanned only some 600 of the past 3,000 years. In fact, classifying Arab-Muslim rule according to the various conquerors who captured the city from one another is quite convenient; the resulting chronology is miraculously divided into units of time all of which are shorter than the period of Jewish rule in the city.
One of the exhibition halls in the museum is, as previously mentioned, a mosque in which soldiers prayed until the Israeli occupation of the Old City in 1967. The front section of the mosque is now devoted to an exhibit on Islam in Jerusalem. The praying niche and pulpit have been cleaned and whitewashed, but the ancient dedications in Arabic script affixed to the wall have not been given a Hebrew or English translation. The main portion of the mosque is actually devoted to the Crusader period; the 88-year rule of these European knights (10991187) gets sympathetic and detailed treatment, including thirteenth-century music playing softly in the background. Not that this prominent reminder of a short episode in the life of the 5,000-year-old city occupies a disproportionate place in the narrative. On the contrary, it emphasizes the universality of the Holy City without impinging on Jewish-Israeli claims, and it reinforces the religious aspect of the city's history. Just as there is no "Muslim nation," there is no "Christiannation" and no fear that the Christians will launch a new crusade to deliver Jerusalem from the hands of the Jews.
The last in the long list of foreign occupiers was Christian—imperial Great Britain. The chronicles of the struggle to liberate Jerusalem from the yoke of the British conqueror are depicted in the final, most dramatic exhibit. A series of slides back-projected onto a large screen illustrates that the struggle and the evolution of the Jewish community, including the bombing of the King David Hotel by the Irgun (the underground "National Military Organization") in 1946, the punishment imposed by the British army, and the Jews' eventual victory in their struggle for independence (a large Union Jack is lowered and its place on the flagpole is taken by the flag of Israel). The part played by the Arabs in the history of the British Mandate is depicted as "riots" and as "opposition to the partition of Palestine." Then the Jordanian Arab Legion invaded, and Jerusalem was divided in two for nineteen years.
The lowering of the British flag and raising of the Israeli flag is a concrete example of the standard Israeli point of view, which by now has become a "historical fact": the War for Independence, in whose wake the State of Israel was established, was a struggle against British colonialism and the invading Arab armies. The most critical and cruel stage of the struggle—the bloody communal warfare between Jews and Palestinians—was marginalized and swallowed up in the classic anticolonial, national struggle for independence. The 100-year feud over every residential neighborhood, field, and road, and the killing and expulsion of civilians and looting of their property that accompanied it, were obliterated from the national consciousness. The Jewish victors endeavored to forget that embarrassing chapter: a war against the Palestinian community with whom they had formerly shared the city and the country. The Palestinians, a national community and not a Muslim religious sect—who, vanquished, had disappeared from sight—resurfaced nineteen years later, with the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967. But even then they were not recognized as a national collective, and their struggle against the Israeli occupation is characterized in thecatalogue of the Museum of the City of Jerusalem as "municipal and political problems." However, "despite these problems," states the catalogue, "the city is unified, and living in it side by side are Jews, Christians, and Muslims, secular and religious."
This, then, is the narrative recounted at David's Citadel: Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people, where they established their kingdom and set up their capital 3,000 years ago. For 2,000 years the city was subjected to the rule of foreign conquerors and the Jewish people were exiled from it. In recent generations they have returned to their capital, expelled the foreign invaders, and reestablished the capital of their sovereign state. Each of the conquerors left a mark, and billions of Muslim and Christian believers have embraced the sanctity of Jerusalem—an attachment they appropriated from the Jewish people. No competing national claim to the city exists, since there is no national collective in Jerusalem aside from that of the Israelis.
A museum is not a political pamphlet, in which one carries on a direct debate with one's interlocutor. In a museum one grapples with the opponent via chronological charts and through the emphasis and deemphasis of exhibits. History is a vast quarry from whose stones a magnificent edifice dedicated to the cult of Israeli Jerusalem has been constructed. In it there is no room for the other—Palestinian-Arab—collective. Its designers, who invested millions of dollars in it, hope that this message will accompany the hundreds of thousands of visitors who go out into the alleyways of the Old City. Those they will meet there are "Muslims and Christians," but not Palestinians, since they have just learned in David's Citadel (whose motto is "here begins Jerusalem") that there was no Palestinian nationality in Jerusalem in the past and there is none in the present. Upon leaving the last exhibition hall, this writer encountered an American tourist couple who were arguing over which of the six towers of the citadel was the real Tower of David. The woman pointed at the mosque with the minaret soaring above it, while the man insisted that it was the massive herodian tower. "But this is the one shown in the catalogue," said the woman. "Maybe you're right,"
responded the man, "but if so, how is it that David's Tower is shaped like an Arab structure?"
David's Citadel is not Alhambra in Granada, from which the Arabs were long ago expelled, and whose builders can be identified without the identification having political significance. In Jerusalem and its vicinity live one million Palestinians for whom David's Citadel is not a silent monument to a romantic past that has faded, but a living symbol of identity, and its mosque not an exhibition hall, but a holy place. The contradiction between the citadel's being an expression of the Palestinians' attachment to Jerusalem and its being "the symbol of the longing and yearning for the Holy Land" of the Jews makes it truly symbolic of Jerusalem: a conflict-riven city, where each side strives to appropriate for itself both the physical and the chronological space.
History may be written by victors, but the vanquished have not relinquished their version and are diligently cultivating it. Persons wishing a glimpse of the other side's perspective may visit the Museum of Islam on the Temple Mount. There they will find no trace of the Jews. The Palestinians' insistence on promoting their sacred history and geography makes the Israeli victors uneasy. The need to justify their continued dominion over a cohesive Palestinian community, proud of its heritage, has compelled the Israelis to develop symbols and ceremonies aimed at fostering their own legitimacy. They also feel a need to justify the status quo to the outside world—particularly to the liberal Western public.
These needs planted the seeds of the inspired idea of leaping backward 3,000 years in time to anchor Israel's claims to Jerusalem and the legitimacy of its rule over the entire city in a sovereign act by King David at the dawn of history. The "Jerusalem 3,000" celebrations were understood exactly as those who conceived the idea intended, that is, in the immediate political context, and no one took their official rationale or their cultural-historical content seriously. Nonparticipation in the celebrations or pertinent criticism of their content was perceived as a challenge to the legitimacy of Israeli rule and as evidence of anunpatriotic or even anti-Israeli stance. When the ambassador of the United States dared to be absent from the opening ceremonies, the U.S. Jewish community was alerted and protested to the secretary of state. The secretary made assurances that the ambassador's chance absence from the opening did not imply either support for the Arab position or opposition to the status of Jerusalem as Israel's eternal capital. Israeli scientists took issue with the date specified by the organizers as the beginning of King David's reign, arguing that it did not match established scientific chronology, whereas historians protested that the program of events intentionally erased thousands of years of the city's history and glossed over other ties to the Holy City. All of these protestations were dismissed on the grounds that they were not pertinent but were simply being used to camouflage political support for the redivision of "unified Jerusalem."
It is worthy of mention that members of the scientific community in Israel—historians, geographers, and archeologists—have not responded to the unceasing efforts to enlist them in the campaign to provide a basis for nationalist political allegations. The days when research on Jerusalem and the Land of Israel could be used as a means of establishing Jewish ownership claims are gone forever. In the not-too-distant past, the dominant approach of such research was to focus exclusively on periods when there was a massive Jewish presence in Jerusalem and the Land of Israel / Palestine. Archeologists and historians intensively studied the periods of David's kingdom, the Second Temple, and the Mishnah and Talmud. The periods that followed—from the Byzantine era through the time of Ottoman rule—were neglected, since they did not directly touch on the history of the Jewish people.
This disregard for thousands of years in the history of non-Jewish Jerusalem has been replaced by a desire to treat the city's past outside of its ethnic context. Israeli scholars have recently published studies of the history of Jerusalem during the Crusader, Mamluk, and Ottoman periods. They have delved into the archives of the Muslim courts of law in the Old City and elucidated the day-to-day life of the city during periodswhen the Jewish and Christian communities were under Muslim rule—something that has been given no mention in the official Israeli narrative. Indeed, several of these Israeli scholars have dealt with subjects of particular sensitivity from a political point of view, thereby furnishing the Palestinians with some of their strongest arguments. This liberation from the bonds of politically committed research reflects the scholars' feeling that Israel's claims are accepted as a matter of course and need no reinforcement from selective history. The younger Israeli scholars approach their research with a simple sense of belonging to the city, without dependence on Zionist ideology, feelings of guilt, or the need to vindicate one's own claims.
The problem is that these studies are accumulating in scientific libraries or have been published in professional journals to which the public does not have ready access. Most important, this scholarship has not found its way into school texts, where the ethnocentric Israeli and Palestinian approaches continue to flourish. The stonecutters have proceeded with their work in the quarry of history, but they have no control over the architects of intercommunal strife, who continue building their respective cult sites.
Nevertheless, as we peer into the quarry, the wondrous panorama of Jerusalem's 5,000 years becomes clearer, and the images that give this city its human dimension begin to stand out. Here is Melchizedek, the king of the Canaanite city of Shalem, "and he was a priest of the most high God" who blesses Abraham: "Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth" (Gen. 14:1820). Here is King David, conqueror of Jebusite Jerusalem— "Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion: the same is the city of David" (2 Sam. 5:69)—the king who did not slaughter the Jebusite inhabitants of the city, and who, upon bringing the Ark of the Covenant into the city, unabashedly "danced before the Lord with all his might" (2 Sam. 6:14).
Here is King Solomon, the wisest of men, who built the city and the temple and in so doing established Jerusalem as the political and religious center of the people of Israel. And here is Zedekiah, the last kingof David's lineage, who fell into the hands of the soldiers of Nebuchadnezer, King of Babylon, following the conquest of Jerusalem and the burning of the Temple (586 B.C. ): "And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him with fetters of brass and carried him to Babylon" (2 Kings 25:7).
Following the Jews' return from Babylonian exile and the completion of the construction of the Second Temple (515 B.C. ), the most prominent images are those of Nehemiah, a vizier in the court of the King of Persia who built the walls of Jerusalem (444 B.C. ), and Ezra the Scribe: "And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the Lord your God; mourn not, nor weep. For the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: For this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Neh. 8:911). A hundred years passed from the days of Nehemiah until the advent of Alexander of Maccedon (332 B.C. ), and approximately 200 years of corrupt and repressive Hellenistic rule led to the Hasmonean revolt, where Judah the Maccabi stands out: "He was like a lion in his exploits, like a lion's whelp he pursued and tracked down the renegades, he consigned those who troubled his people to the flames" (1 Macc. 3:45). In the year 165 B.C. , Judah the Maccabi restored the Temple "to the sound of zithers, harps and cymbals, at the same time of year and on the same day on which the pagans had originally profaned it. And all the people fell prostrate in adoration, praising to the skies him who had made them so successful" (1 Macc. 4:545).
From 37 B.C.A.D. 4, following approximately 100 years of Hasmonean rule, Herod the Edomite reigned over Jerusalem, and the city and the Temple reached the peak of their greatness and splendor. Jesus of Nazareth looked down on this glorious city from the heights of the Mount of Olives "and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thypeace! but now they are hid from thine eyes" (Luke 19:4142). And forty years later (A.D. 70), the great Jewish revolt against the Romans culminated in total defeat and exile: "Then one of the soldiers, without waiting for orders, without a qualm for the terrible consequences of this action Snatched up a blazing piece of wood and climbing on another soldier's back hurled the rand through a golden aperture . As the flames shot into the air the Jews that watched the calamity sent up a cry . The Temple Mount, enveloped in flames from top to bottom, appeared to be boiling up from its very roots: yet the sea of flames was nothing to the ocean of blood" (Josephus, The Jewish War , Book 6, Chap. 4).
The eradication of Jewish Jerusalem was accomplished by constructing a Roman city on its ruins (A.D. 130) and by changing its name to Aelia Capitolina. Its transformation into a Christian city was the doing of the Emperor Constantine (A.D. 324) and his mother, Queen Helene: "The pious emperor judged it incumbent on him to render the blessed locality of our savior's resurrection [on the Mount of Olives] an object of attraction and veneration to all [then] he adorned the sacred cave [of Christ's burial place] itself as the chief part of the whole work and hallowed monument with rare columns and profusely enriched with most beautiful decoration of every kind" (Eusebius).
Constantine's mother, Helene, found the holy cross upon which Jesus had been crucified and the sacred tomb, after digging in "a mound of garbage that was piled upon them." In the course of the next 300 years, dozens of churches and monasteries were built in Jerusalem, including the gigantic "New Church" (Nea), whose builder, the Emperor Justinian, said upon its completion: "I am greater than you, King Solomon." The image of this magnificent Christian city was immortalized in the famous mosaic floor of a church in the city of Madaba in Moab (now in the Kingdom of Jordan). The armies of the Persian Empire destroyed the churches in 614, but they ruled Jerusalem for only fifteen years, and shortly afterward a new era in the annals of the city commenced with its conquest by Caliph Omar in 638.
The Arab conquest was accomplished without bloodshed. It bore the stamp of an Arab commander blessed with generosity, integrity, and simplicity. The terms of surrender he dictated were generous: security was granted to the city's inhabitants, their children, their churches, and their right to worship. But some humiliating conditions were imposed upon them as well: they were forbidden to ring the church bells, to wear crosses, or to conduct religious ceremonies in public; non-Muslims were forbidden to bear arms or ride horses; a head tax was imposed, and they were even obliged to shave the front of their heads.
So began a period of more than 400 years of Arab rule, during which the Temple Mount mosques were built (see Chapter 3). The makeup of the population changed and Jerusalem became an Arab city, even if Christians were numerous. The Jews, permitted to return and live there after hundreds of years of Christian rule during which they had been banned from the city, were grateful to the Arab regime. The Jerusalem born Arab historian Al-Muqadassi describes his city at the close of the tenth century: "And as to her being the finest city, why, has any seen elsewhere buildings finer or cleaner, or a mosque that is more beautiful? Still, Jerusalem has some disadvantages . In this city the oppressed have no succor; the weak are molested and the rich envied; also schools are unattended [and] everywhere the Christians and the Jews have the upper hand" (quoted in Guy Le Strange, Palestine Under the Moslems [Beirut: Khayats, 1965]).
The buildings of this lovely city fell into the hands of the Crusaders in 1099, almost without being damaged, but their Muslim and Jewish inhabitants perished in an orgy of killing the likes of which have seldom been seen. A Crusader chronicler describes the scene: "It was impossible to look upon the vast numbers of slain without horror; everywhere lay fragments of human bodies, and the very ground was covered with the blood of the slain still more dreadful it was to gaze upon the victors themselves, dripping with blood from head to foot, an ominous sight which brought terror to all who met them" (William of Tyre, A History of Deeds Done Beyond the Sea . Trans. E.A. Babcock and A.C. Krey. [New York: Columbia University Press, 1943], 372).
Eighty-eight years later, Crusader Jerusalem was besieged by the Muslim army commanded by Sultan Salah al-Din (Saladin). The besieged Jerusalemites trembled for fear that the Muslims would make them pay for the slaughter of their people. But the sultan was made of different stuff. He was humane, generous, sensitive, merciful toward the weak, honest, skillful in statesmanship, and courageous in war. In short, the image of Saladin the infidel matched the ideal of the Christian knight. Saladin set generous terms of surrender, and no Christian was killed. The Christians left the city after paying a ransom, the mosques that had been turned into churches were ritually purified, and several churches were made into mosques. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was closed for a short time, after which it was reopened and Christian worship restored. The image of the generous enemy, the unbeliever who demonstrated the Christian spirit more than the Christians themselves, kindled the imagination of the Europeans. They merged the romance of Saladin with that of another ideal knight of the Middle Ages, Richard the Lion-Hearted. These two fearless and irreproachable knights fought one another, conducted negotiations, and respected each other. When Richard left the shores of the Holy Land, he sent Saladin a message that he was returning home only in order to raise money to enable him to complete the liberation of Jerusalem. Saladin responded: "Truly, if God wills that Jerusalem pass into other hands, it cannot fall into any more noble than those of the great Malik Rik (King Richard)."
The Holy City remained in Muslim hands for 730 years (11871917). During those centuries Christian pilgrims visited the city, splendid Mamluk structures were built, and a large Jewish community gathered there. From time to time Christian rulers called for the "deliverance" of Jerusalem, and Muslim monarchs fought each other for control. "However," states an English historian writing in the 1870s, "during the interval of five hundred years Jerusalem has been without ahistory. Nothing has happened but an occasional act of brutality on the part of her masters toward the Christians." History returned to Jerusalem during the nineteenth century, when the European powers began to show an interest in the city and to squabble over chunks ripped from the ailing body of the Ottoman Empire.
But the annals of the Jewish community in Jerusalem during those 500 years show that life was not devoid of incident. It was hard, full of persecution on the part of the authorities and provocation by the Arab inhabitants of the city. "The peoples scorn the Jews so much that they do not allow us to walk on the streets, but rather a Jew must descend from the path so that a Gentile may pass, and if the Israelite does not descend by himself, he is lowered against his will," recounted one rabbi. A traveler reported that "the Jews there exist in a state of the cruelest and most shameful poverty and subjugation. They are less sensitive to their misfortune than to the well-being they expect after their death, by reason of which they live there in hopes of dying there and being buried with their ancestors." There are many testimonies to the poverty, the terrible living conditions, the filth, and the neglect that prevailed in the Jewish quarter, but this quarter was not exceptional. As late as the nineteenth century, European travelers were describing Jerusalem in the bleakest terms: "Ruins everywhere, and everywhere the odor of graves," wrote the French author Gustav Flaubert. "It seems as if the Lord's curse hovers over the city. The Holy City of three religions is rotting away from boredom, dejection, and neglect."
The language of these testimonies describing the shocking condition of Jerusalem—repeated in nearly all the accounts penned by European travelers—does indeed reflect the actual situation. However, these descriptions are not so innocent and free from bias as they might seem. They were written with the intent of providing justification and an excuse for colonial aspirations, and they evinced a Eurocentric arrogance regarding the "white man's burden" or its French equivalent, mission civilisatrice . The backwardness of the Orientals—so the argument went—the dirt and neglect, the prejudices and religious fanaticism, thecruel and corrupt despotism of the Ottomans, and the misery of the Jews, all cried out for salvation by the West. Only the European powers and their emissaries were capable of bringing Progress to the Orient. The era of colonialism in the Middle East did not officially commence until after the First World War and lasted a very short time (19171947), but its seeds were sown in Jerusalem's soil during approximately the same period that European colonial regimes were being established in Africa and the Far East. Strategic considerations precluded the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire at that time; therefore competition between the aspiring colonialist nations assumed a cultural, religious, and economic guise. But the pretense of bringing progress to the backward city of Jerusalem fooled no one, and even the "primitive natives" understood its significance and exploited it to their own ends.
Were it not for the habit of the Israelis and Palestinians of always returning to the quarry of history to dig up arguments to aid them in their present-day quarrels, the historical description of Jerusalem relevant to our needs could have begun with the mid-nineteenth century. It was then that the internal and external political forces, interests, ideologies, and processes that provided the background for the Jewish-Arab struggle, which burst into the open around the time of the First World War and immediately afterwards, first began slowly to take shape. And indeed, the mid-nineteenth century will serve as our point of departure for most of the subjects discussed in this book.
For many generations intra-European competition in this "backward and neglected" city had been left to the fanatical and small-minded clergy. But in the fourth decade of the last century, the agents of European progress arrived, seeking to bring change—not because of their concern for the good of the city and its inhabitants, but because of fear that the city would fall into the hands of others. The English were first, as usual. They suspiciously eyed the French and the Russians, whose involvement in Levantine matters was longstanding. The Russians considered themselves heirs of the Byzantines; the French, successors of the Crusaders. Both demanded for themselves the noblestatus of "defenders of Christianity and the holy places"—each, of course, in the name of a different Christianity. The pretensions of the French and the Russians were not accompanied by concrete efforts to improve the state of the oppressed Christians, who strained under the Turkish yoke. Only when Great Britain arrived on the scene and gave notice—in the name of a third (Protestant) Christianity—that it too had something to say and that it too demanded "influence," were the "defenders" aroused to action. The French came to the rescue of the Catholics, and the Russians championed the Greek Orthodox. The British, finding only two Protestants in all of Jerusalem, became the saviors of the Jews.
All of the Europeans took pains to do good deeds in the holy city: tending the sick, introducing technical and scientific innovations, improving the sewer system and purifying the water, eradicating ignorance, unearthing the past, and revealing "the truth" (that of Jesus of Nazareth) to the masses of primitive natives. The emissaries of each nation also had additional motives (that some might regard as the more important ones); to outdo their rivals, to win over more natives, and to create solid political and physical "facts" that would improve their country's standing in the competition to inherit pieces of the crumbling Ottoman empire. When one built a church, the rivals built four; when a hospital was established, three more followed in its wake; when a bishop was appointed, two patriarchs were named without delay; when a Frenchman published an earthshaking scientific discovery, German and English scientists hastened to refute it. When the Russians sought to attack the Turks and plunder their land, they could find no better excuse than an alleged violation of Greek Orthodox rights; and when the English wished to spy out the land, their best pretext was that they were investigating the wanderings of the Children of Israel in the desert.
The compulsive need to "display the flag" was usually expressed by a "friendly visit" of gunboats to Jaffa, Jerusalem's port city. But in Jerusalem the rivalry over the flag became comical when it turned intoa struggle over postage-stamp licking. In 1859, a post office was opened in Jerusalem in front of which the symbol of the Hapsburg Empire fluttered and on whose stamps appeared the image of His Apostolic Majesty the King-Emperor of Austria. For many years the Austrians enjoyed practically a monopoly on mail service (except for an unsuccessful attempt by the local imperator to provide Ottoman mail service). Finally, the German Empire could no longer bear the humiliation of having Jerusalem residents lick only stamps upon which the likeness of Emperor Franz Josef appeared. In 1900 a German Imperial Post Office was opened. The Germans (always more efficient than their Austrian cousins) found a sophisticated way to display a flag on every street corner: they distributed blue mailboxes throughout the city. No more than six months passed, and the French opened their own post office, which also distributed mailboxes—in art nouveau style, of course. In 1901 the Imperial Russian Post Office was opened and, last but not least, the Italian Mail (in 1907), when even Italy had awakened to the need to exhibit its presence in the East.
The first French consul in Jerusalem, Comte Gabriel Marie Jean Benoit de Lantivy de Kerveno, who served in 184344, described the competition among the European powers (disguised as religious humanitarian activity) as follows: "The Anglicans (Episcopalians) prosper and are making great efforts, which have not borne fruit as yet, to create an English nation here via the conversion of the populace. The Anglicans are striving to attract the Jews of Jerusalem, as they already have the Druze in Lebanon, so as to cut this population off from the influence of French patronage. To this end, they are making efforts the likes of which have never before been beheld." The consul enumerated some of the innovations introduced by the Anglicans: a physician, an architect, and a pharmacy, as well as a well-equipped hospital. "I consider it urgent," concluded de Kerveno's letter to his minister, "to establish two Catholic institutions in Jerusalem—that will be obviously French as well—so as to balance the opposing influence of the Anglicans and the Greco-Russians."
The foreign consuls were demigods. One of them commented: "After God, the consuls were the most exalted personalities in Palestine. Not even the Ottoman pasha was so venerated by the populace." They were the long arm of the European powers. A series of agreements, called "capitulations," permitted the consul to establish a sort of island of European sovereignty—not territorial, but personal—in Jerusalem. From the Ottoman authorities they appropriated jurisdiction and control over their respective "protected populations," and the consul himself was authorized to determine which individuals fell under this "protection" and were thereby shielded from the arbitrariness of the authorities and the violence of the "natives." The consul also dispensed justice to those under his protection, in accordance with the laws of his land, and was authorized to imprison or fine them, employing for this purpose armed men called kavasses . Protected persons, both European citizens and local people (who had obtained certificates of protection on various pretexts), were extremely grateful. Only the consul's protection enabled them to exist in this barbaric land and to work toward the realization of their religious aspirations or their commercial ambitions.
There were almost no limits to the range of the consuls' activities or to their ability to implement the power vested in them. Paradoxically, the principal constraints were a consequence of the weakness of the local regime: coping with the corruption, the inefficiency, and the rivalries among various factions of the population exhausted the consuls. Furthermore, the authorities made effective use of the weapons of the weak, employing cunning and flattery to stir up dissension among the consuls. The otherwise helpless Turks played the consuls against each other. When they gave in and granted one consul a permit from the Sultan (firman ) for the construction of a building, or some other concession, they would hurriedly dispense a similar concession to a rival consul, thereby intensifying the competition between them. When France and Britain came to collect on their debt for having assisted the Turks in the war against Russia (the Crimean War of 185356), the Turkish regime hastened (in 1858) to bestow its army parade ground onthe Russians, of all people, for the purpose of setting up a gigantic complex of buildings which is called the Russian Compound to this day.
The consuls, "champions of progress," limited their attentions to "enlightened" persons. Thus, during the 1870s, all of the consulates in Jerusalem together "cared for" only 670 German, British, Russian, and Austrian subjects, in addition to some 3,000 local "protigis," out of a total population of 25,000. The fate of the others did not interest the consuls, and their "progress" was of importance only if it furthered the latter's imperial interests or religious aspirations. The relatively wide scope of the "personal sovereignty" enjoyed by the foreign powers did not change significantly until the period of Ottoman rule was drawing to a close. With the British occupation and the establishment of the Mandatory regime, the "capitulations" were repealed, and the foreign consuls lost the perquisites of their status, with the exception of a few ceremonial courtesies.
Jerusalem's development during the second half of the nineteenth century was extremely rapid. In the space of two generations, the Holy City passed from medieval darkness into the modern age. The "primitive natives" began showing signs of a sense of nationhood, a factor that seriously threatened the old world order. Massive Jewish immigration to Palestine as a whole and to Jerusalem in particular—and the establishment of the Zionist movement—provoked strong reactions from the Arab population, and a Palestinian national movement began to take shape.
"The problem of Jerusalem"—demanding a political, religious, and communal solution secured in international agreements—arose at the close of the First World War, when, following centuries of Ottoman sovereignty, the city was occupied by Great Britain. This was not the first time in modern history that Jerusalem had been the object of international contention. A hundred years before, European states had clashed with one another over the holy places; however, those international disputes were not related to the question of sovereignty overJerusalem, but arose from religious disputes that served as a pretext for increasing the spheres of influence of the international powers outside the city (see Chapter 3). Communal strife, too, was dormant until the British occupation. The various communities residing in Jerusalem differed in religious identity only. The Jewish community, which constituted the majority of the city's population by the mid-nineteenth century, uncomplainingly accepted the favored status accorded the Muslim Arabs and contented itself with religious autonomy. Muslim ascendancy was conspicuous in all areas of life in Jerusalem.
The disintegration of the Ottoman Empire exacerbated the problems. Immediately preceding and following the British occupation, the European powers sought to solve the problem of sovereignty by proposing the imposition of international rule over Jerusalem. The Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 specified that, following the division of the Ottoman Empire, the region between Dan and Beersheba (biblical Palestine) would be placed under "international administration," but this treaty was never implemented. With the conclusion of the war and the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire, Great Britain received a League of Nations Mandate granting it rule over Palestine, including Jerusalem. This was the solution to the sovereignty problem. The European powers and other interested parties attempted to resolve the issue of the holy places as well. Long and tortuous negotiations were conducted over an international agreement regarding the holy places, which, if signed, would have imposed certain restrictions on British sovereignty in Jerusalem. The negotiations collapsed, however, and in late 1924 it was decided that the British administration would also be responsible for the holy places, without the involvement of outside elements. This was the solution to the religious problem. The problem of Jerusalem ceased, for the time being, to be an object of international concern. The city reverted to being simply the capital of a political entity under British sovereign rule.
It was the ongoing intercommunal conflict that returned the problem of Jerusalem to the international arena. The Jewish and Arab(Muslim and Christian) communities embarked upon a prolonged, tangled, and bloody struggle for national hegemony in Palestine. Throughout the years of the British Mandate, Jerusalem was the principal point of contention and main arena in this struggle. Conflicting interests came to light in all areas of the city's life: municipal administration, economics, the holy places, national symbols, transportation, commerce, construction, and land ownership. The principal political struggle focused on municipal government. From the time of the municipality's inception during the Turkish period, a Muslim Arab had always served as mayor, and the Arabs demanded the continuation of this practice. However, Jews constituted a majority of the city's population, and they demanded the democratic election of the mayor and members of the city council. The British searched for a compromise solution, but in the end they decided in favor of continuing the status quo (see Chapter 5).
No one was satisfied with this arrangement. The Jews developed their own elaborate system of municipal and communal services, but the existence of separate communal organizations only increased the polarization and tension. The conflict was reflected in the economic and commercial spheres as well—essentially in every aspect of the city's life.
Intercommunal strife in Palestine peaked in the mid-thirties. With the outbreak of the Arab Revolt in 1936, all hope for reconciliation and coexistence evaporated. The British government drew the logical conclusion and for the first time proposed partitioning the country into Jewish and Arab states, in keeping with the recommendations of the Peel Commission (1936). According to this plan, Jerusalem was to remain united and to come under a permanent British Mandate. Elections would be conducted based on ethnically determined electoral districts and voters' lists. In 1938 another commission (the Woodhead Commission) was appointed to implement the partition plan.
Plans to implement partition were suspended in the atmosphere of increasing tension leading up to the Second World War. In May 1939,a White Paper was issued in which the British declared their intention to establish a unified Palestinian state at the end of ten years. In this state a two-thirds Arab majority would be guaranteed by means of restrictions on Jewish immigration, and Jerusalem would have no special status apart from the guaranteed freedom of access to its holy places. Understandably, the Jews rejected the White Paper of 1939; but so did the Arabs.
Meanwhile, the Second World War broke out, and as a result the problem of Jerusalem was temporarily marginalized, even though intercommunal tensions persisted. During the last days of the war and especially in 194647, Jerusalem was the scene of violent clashes between Jewish underground organizations and British authorities, which reached a climax with the July 1946 bombing of the British governmental offices in the King David Hotel.
In 1947, the Palestine problem again returned to the international stage. As in 1917, the questions requiring resolution concerned sovereignty, the holy places, and municipal administration. On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly approved a proposal for the partition of Palestine into two states, Jewish and Arab. The Jerusalem district would become a corpus separatum , under UN Trusteeship. A representative of the United Nations was to be designated as responsible for the holy places, whereas municipal administration would be divided between the Jews and Arabs. However, the internationalization of Jerusalem was never accomplished. In the wake of the UN decision, Jews and Arabs embarked upon a war that rapidly expanded into an armed conflict between the Arab countries and the nascent State of Israel.
In the weeks following the proclamation of the state on May 14, 1948, the Israeli government had no time for political decisions that did not relate directly to the most important problem of the hour: the conduct of the war. No steps were taken to define the legal status of those portions of Jerusalem that fell to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). The government refrained from political actions liable to provoke the variouscountries with interests in Jerusalem, even at the price of lack of clarity regarding the form of civilian government in the city.
At that time David Ben-Gurion defined the question of who would govern Jerusalem as "a question of military ability." This was not a decree based on principles, but an interim decision of a practical nature. At that time Israel had not yet abandoned the effort to conquer the entire city. Only in July 1948, when the second cease-fire came into effect, did the Jewish community's leaders begin a process of adjustment to the bitter reality that the Old City would remain outside Israeli jurisdiction. The sole official step taken by the government at that time in Jerusalem was the application of Israeli law to those portions of the city under Israeli control, which was not perceived as an attempt to annex the area to the State of Israel, but as a way to create a "controlled territory," subject to military administration. This step by the government was acceptable to the international community, whose representatives in Jerusalem began referring to the Israeli military governor as "the military governor of Israeli-occupied Jerusalem."
Throughout the summer of 1948 the Israeli government continued to vacillate on the question of Jerusalem. There were three options to choose from: internationalization of the entire city, as demanded by the partition resolution of 1947; partition of the city between Israel and Transjordan, along the military lines established in the aftermath of the war; and occupation of the remainder of the city.
In late August 1948, the Israeli cabinet convened to deliberate the question and decided—by a majority of one (five to four)—that given the choice between the partition and the internationalization of the city, the latter option was preferable, electing to relinquish its sovereignty over Jerusalem entirely rather than divide the city. This decision aroused the ire of the Jewish residents of Jerusalem. Their spokesperson, the military governor Dov Joseph, stated, "It is hard for me to understand the brand of political thinking that says that instead of the Arabs having something it is better that neither they nor we have anything."
David Ben-Gurion laid the military option before the cabinet. He proposed launching a campaign beginning with "storming Latrun and continuing from there north to Ramallah and to Jericho and the Jordan, so as to liberate the Hebron district and the whole area between Latrun and Ramallah and all the way to Jericho and the Dead Sea." He was careful not to mention the Old City explicitly. Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett expressed the opposite opinion: "I am certain that the lesser of the evils is part of Jerusalem for the Arabs—if absolutely essential—rather than international rule over all of Jerusalem."
The final debate, held on September 26, 1948, concluded with two historic votes. Ben-Gurion's proposal regarding a renewed military campaign was rejected by a seven to five majority; and the cabinet decided, with a seven to four majority and two abstentions, that "should the partition [of Jerusalem] be necessary, the [Israeli] delegation to the United Nations would agree."
These decisions defined Israel's policy regarding Jerusalem: first, it must accept the partition of the city as a fact and strive for stabilization of the political-military status quo, while maintaining dialogue with the Transjordanians and opposition to the internationalization of the city; second, the military status quo must not be altered by force via preemptive military action, even with a good chance of success.
Faithful to these decisions, Ben-Gurion initiated the renewal of secret contacts with Transjordan, which went on intensively throughout November and December of 1948. Early in 1949, Israeli army officers proposed a plan to capture Judea and Samaria in a lightning attack lasting three days; however, the prime minister rejected it. Even so, Israel still refrained from publicly announcing its official stance on the future of Jerusalem. In accordance with a motto coined by Ben-Gurion, "Declaration—no; deeds—yes," Israel embarked upon a series of vigorous steps to consolidate its rule and its legal status in the city and to make it the capital of the state in practice. In February 1949, military administration of Jerusalem was abolished, and a government decision stated the intent "to implement [in Jerusalem] all the governingarrangements customary elsewhere in the State of Israel." In December 1949, the Knesset began holding its sessions in Jerusalem, and on the sixteenth of that month Ben-Gurion moved his office to the city, designating the beginning of January 1950 as the date when the remaining governmental offices, with the exception of the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Defense, and the National Police Headquarters, must make the move. The final step in Israel's effort to establish political faits accomplis in Jerusalem was taken on July 12, 1953, when the spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry announced that "in accordance with the government's decision and following the completion of arrangements for the accommodation of the ministry and its employees, the Foreign Ministry will today move to Jerusalem." The foreign diplomatic missions in Israel reacted lukewarmly to this latest step by the government. Some boycotted the ministry's Jerusalem offices, but only briefly, and ever since 1954, all foreign diplomats have presented their credentials to the president of Israel at his Jerusalem residence and have paid a visit to the Foreign Ministry.
By the time of the 1967 war, there were twenty-three diplomatic missions in Jerusalem. Most missions, however, including all of the major embassies, did not relocate from Tel Aviv. In any case, the prolonged process of creating political "facts" and turning Jerusalem into the capital of the state continued for some six years, concluding in 1954.
The Arab Legion—Transjordan's British-commanded army—entered the battle for Jerusalem on May 18, 1948, thereby preventing the complete collapse of the Arab-Palestinian military campaign in the city and determining the position of the front lines, which, in the form of armistice lines, have remained more or less stationary since then. After a relatively short period of military rule of East Jerusalem, King Abdullah convened the Jericho Conference, at which 2,000 Palestinian public figures expressed their desire for "the unification of Palestine and Transjordan as a step toward full Arab unity." The Jericho Conference proclaimed "His Majesty Abdullah as King of all Palestine." On December 7, 1948, the Transjordanian government declared itsintention to implement "the unification of the two sister countries legally and internationally, when the time is ripe." On that day the name Transjordan was abolished and the kingdom renamed "the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan." Abdullah was forced to postpone the annexation of the West Bank because of vehement opposition from the other Arab countries, but not for long. All the inhabitants of Palestine residing in the West Bank became citizens of the Hashemite Kingdom. The post of Governor General of the Jordanian-occupied territory was abolished and its civilian administration brought under the jurisdiction of the minister of the interior in Amman. In April 1950 parliamentary elections were held with the participation of all the citizens of the kingdom, from both banks of the Jordan River. The unified parliament, made up of twenty representatives of the East Bank and twenty representatives of the West Bank, was called upon to ratify the formal unification of the two banks. The following decision was passed with a large majority and no votes in opposition, several Palestinian delegates having absented themselves before the vote: "Full unification between the two sides of the Jordan Valley, the eastern and the western, and their merger into one state, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan." Thus, in mid-1950 East Jerusalem, and with it the West Bank, became an integral part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
As we have seen, by late 1948 Israel and Jordan were ripe for negotiations regarding the future of Jerusalem. The Israelis, as previously mentioned, had ratified a decision to accept in principle the partition of the city, and were seeking allies in their struggle to prevent its internationalization. King Abdullah had institutionalized his rule in the West Ban k, and at the Jericho Conference assured himself some public support for annexing it to his kingdom. There was room, therefore, to assume that political dialogue between the partners in ruling Jerusalem would bear fruit. These were not the first political negotiations between Jews and the Bedouin king. Throughout the winter and spring of 1948 talks had taken place between representatives of the Jewish Agency and King Abdullah, and there was no difficulty reviving them. Negotiationswere resumed in November 1948 and continued without interruption until early 1951. They revolved around military issues, such as the terms of the armistice agreement, the future of the West Bank, a nonaggression pact, and a peace agreement. Concerning Jerusalem, the two sides agreed to regard the ceasefire lines determined in November 1948 as agreed-upon boundaries. The Jordanian negotiators did indeed, from time to time, demand the return of Arab neighborhoods in the western part of the city, but these claims were rejected by the Israelis and King Abdullah did not press the matter. On February 22, 1949, the king stated to the Israeli delegation: "I have no demands with regard to new, that is, West Jerusalem, but I will not agree to hand over the Old City to the Jews or accept its internationalization." The Israelis did not challenge the Old City's remaining in Arab hands; this would have meant an end to the negotiations. What they did want was a guarantee of free access to the holy places, the use of the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives and of the Hebrew University campus on Mount Scopus, and the restoration of the flow of water in the pipeline from Rosh Ha'ayin to Jerusalem via Latrun, then in the hands of the Arab Legion.
The rapid progress being made in the negotiations prompted the Israelis and Jordanians to view these matters as minor details that could be resolved easily and that need not delay the signing of the armistice agreement. In any case they figured that this agreement was just a step on the way to a comprehensive settlement. The two sides therefore agreed that resolution of the remaining issues would be worked out by a special committee appointed in accordance with Article 8 of the Israeli-Jordanian Armistice Agreement. However, this committee's deliberations went badly from the very beginning. It became clear that the sides had conflicting interests. Israel was relatively satisfied with the territorial division that had been settled upon, being interested, as mentioned, chiefly in free access to the holy places and Mount Scopus.
Jordan, by contrast, was not interested in freedom of access but in territorial changes. The pressing issue for the Israelis was their beingcut off from the Western Wall and the Israeli sector of Mount Scopus. For the Jordanians it was the tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees who had left the Arab neighborhoods in the "new" city. The Israelis refused to link freedom of access to the return of the refugees, and the Jordanians claimed that the "restoration of normal life," upon which the demand for freedom of access was based, meant the return of the refugees to their homes. The committee's deliberations continued until the end of 1950, but nothing practical came of them. Jerusalem remained divided in half between Israel and Jordan along the cease-fire lines of November 1948, and from the point of view of both states, the question of sovereignty over the city remained open. The Armistice Agreement states categorically that "no provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims, and positions of either side hereto in the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine question" (Art. 3). On the basis of this article of the agreement, the Arab states maintained—throughout the years that the armistice remained in force—that the entire agreement was temporary and did not abolish the state of belligerency between Israel and Jordan, that the boundaries designated in the agreement were merely military lines, and that Arabs' signing the document in no way implied their recognition of permanent borders.
The Israelis' argument was the reverse. Israel's version was that the Armistice Agreement had indeed created a permanent situation. Government positions stated in the Knesset make it clear that Israel also did not regard the annexation of the West Bank by Jordan as illegal. As to Jerusalem—there Israel and Jordan accepted each other's de facto rule. Indeed, throughout the years that the armistice held (19481967), there were continuous incidents, both minor and major. However, on the whole it may be said that the two sides strove to the best of their abilities to refrain from provoking each other, both being guided by the desire to maintain the status quo as far as possible. During the nineteen years that the city was divided, the two sides essentially sought to cover up the fact that the final outcome of the military campaign for Jerusalem
1. The Tower of David and Jaffa Gate
had not been decided, and by drafting the series of agreements and setting up the proper administrative bodies, this was accomplished. As long as neither side violated the status quo by deliberately attempting to capture territory, the armistice in Jerusalem could be preserved.
On the Israeli side of the city, a sense of forced acquiescence to its division prevailed. The sadness and longing caused by being cut off from the sacred places of the nation were from time to time expressed in works of literature or in emotional outbursts, but these never developed into any political initiative calling for the conquest of the Old City. On the Arab side of Jerusalem, there were severe political tensions between the local people and the Jordanian regime. Jerusalem, more than any other city in the West Bank, was a gathering place for those factions who regarded the Jordanian regime as an invader that had destroyed their hopes for independence. Through violentdemonstrations and terrorist acts they attempted to disrupt the plans of those who adopted the idea of integration with Jordan. The regime fought these factions, which were centered around the Mufti Hajj Amin al-Husseini and the leftist parties. The Arab Legion jailed them or banished them from the city. The Jordanians cultivated and fostered the rivals of the Husseinis. On the assumption that diplomatic support for the strengthening of Jerusalem as the political center of the West Bank would promote the Palestinian separatist cause, the Jordanians persistently and vigorously worked to establish Amman's status as the sole political and economic center of the kingdom. They purposely held back Jerusalem's development, deprived the city of any political power base, abolished its limited administrative independence, and turned it into a backward provincial town. The Palestinians followed these actions angrily, but were powerless to oust the regime. They persevered in their protests against Jerusalem's backward and neglected state, but bowed to the superior force of the Jordanians. Thousands of Jerusalemites emigrated to settle in Amman. The Palestinians continued to clash with the Jordanian authorities over one issue only; the latter's attitude in relation to Israel and Jerusalem. The Arab residents of the city did not accept its division as a fait accompli. Many of them supported the activities of Palestinian infiltrators to Israel and grumbled over the Jordanian army's harsh repression of attempts to provoke Israel. For some twenty years there was continuous tension between the people, whose attitude toward Israel was relatively extreme, and the government, which knew that any ill-considered act on its part was liable to provoke the Israelis to murderous retaliatory attacks. Despite the massive exodus of 1948-era refugees from the city to all parts of the Arab world, thousands remained there whose homes were in West Jerusalem. Many of these people, who had not managed to take their belongings with them when they fled, still zealously guarded their house keys.
The partition of the city separated the warring communities. The struggle for control that had characterized Jerusalem during theMandatory period ceased. The two sections of the city became homogeneous districts, separated from each other by a fortified border, bristling with barbed wire and roadblocks. Separate municipal governing bodies were established in West and East Jerusalem respectively. The first municipal elections were held in West Jerusalem in 1950, and in East Jerusalem in 1951.
The problem of the holy places was not solved, and as long as the sovereignty question remained unanswered, it was impossible to find a lasting solution. Jordan, in whose custody most of the holy places remained, took legal and practical steps to protect them. In January 1951, a "custodian of the holy places" was appointed and the Jordanians assiduously preserved the status quo there. Locations sacred to the Jews—particularly the Western Wall and the cemetery on the Mount of Olives—remained closed to worshipers for nineteen years.
In June 1967, the status quo that had prevailed in Jerusalem for nineteen years was violently upset. The Jordanian attempt to capture the former British High Commissioner's mansion in no-man's-land—which was the first attempt by either side to take territory by force since 1948—launched an inevitable chain of events that necessarily decided the city's fate. Israel, which had not initiated the war with Jordan—and had even tried to prevent it—was left in control of the whole city. The Israeli government's original perception of the Six-Day War as a defensive war with no territorial objectives changed after its occupation of the West Bank. And the first practical expression of this change, of course, pertained to the Old City of Jerusalem. Less than one week after the end of the war, the cabinet had already approved a decision to annex it to Israel.
The Israeli occupation reopened the question of sovereignty in all its intensity. The obliteration of the border restored Jerusalem's physical integrity; however, it revived both the national conflict and the struggle on the local front over the economy, development, resources, and land. The reunification of the city did not bring an agreed-upon settlement on the question of the holy places any closer.
The occupation and the reunification of Jerusalem altered not the parties to the conflict but the character of the struggle. During the British Mandate, the Jews and Arabs had fought each other while both were subject to the domination of a third party. The major part of the struggle had not been carried on between these two communities themselves, but via the efforts of both to achieve their objectives through pressure and influence on the colonial regime. With the ouster of the British, the struggle had assumed the character of a military confrontation that had concluded in a temporary compromise. The Israeli occupation created a new situation. The ongoing conflict was now between one community, which ruled over the entire city, and another, which had been vanquished and had become a subject minority.
The international competition over sovereignty also assumed a different character. In 1949 two national states, Israel and Jordan, had reached a (temporary) agreement on the division of the city and had cooperated in thwarting the attempt by Christian states (albeit with the participation of other elements, including Arab ones) to impose the rule of an international religious patron on the city. The agreement between the partner-rivals had made it possible for them to stand together against the Christian religious interests; to challenge and defeat them; and then to prove that they were capable of finding their own solution without compromising their national sovereignties. In 1967 an entirely new state of affairs came into being. One of the two ruling states had upset the delicate balance in the city, and because of this strategic error, Jordan had lost control of its part of Jerusalem. Yesterday's partner was today's ruler of the entire city; the renewed national conflict had culminated in the victory of one side. But now Israel faced two contenders in the campaign for Jerusalem: international Christian interests (as in 1949), and Arab and Muslim interests.
Israel's success in blocking the internationalization of Jerusalem had been due not only to its cooperation with Jordan, but also to the world powers' view of the Jerusalem issue as marginal in 1949. The politicalconditions that came into being following the Six-Day War were substantively different from those that had prevailed during the period when the city was divided, and international pressure on Israel assumed new dimensions.
The Jews' return to the actual sites of the historical events that had forged their nationhood was a unique experience, the intensity of which had seldom been paralleled, even in the history of so ancient a people. As a sovereign state, Israel was obliged to give concrete expression to the profound connection between the people and the capital city. To this end, the government enacted of a series of legislative actions and administrative measures that were later called "the reunification of Jerusalem." It was inevitable that the reunification legislation—smelted in the furnace of such a profound spiritual experience—would be regarded as eternal and irreversible from the moment of its enactment. Even the boundaries of the unified city, drawn in accordance with military and demographic considerations, took on profound political and symbolic significance: they too, like the reunification legislation, became an unchallengeable part of the national myth. Israel's policy regarding the political future of Jerusalem was formulated in a variety of ways, but the overwhelming majority of Israelis agreed that the reunified city, with the boundaries determined in 1967, would "eternally" remain under exclusive Israeli sovereignty, and that no compromise would be allowed granting sovereign status in the city to any other state. Yet for many years the Israeli government accepted a policy formulation that committed it to conduct negotiations "with no preconditions" with any Arab state that consented to sit down at the negotiating table. When asked how their uncompromising stance on Jerusalem could be reconciled with this commitment, the Israelis explained that the official Israeli policy formulation did not contradict it. For example, in a letter to UN Secretary General U Thant in 1967, Foreign Minister Abba Eban wrote that, "The term annexation is out of place." In 1978, the foreign minister Moshe Dayan stated, in an address to the UN General Assembly, that "one of the subjects that willundoubtedly be discussed [in peace negotiations] is problems regarding Jerusalem." In Israel's view, there was no contradiction, said Dayan, between "absence of preconditions" and "demands that each side might bring up."
The official Israeli stance, which enjoyed wide-ranging support within the Jewish population of Israel as well as in the diaspora, was one of emphasizing unwillingness to make any compromises regarding sovereignty over reunified Jerusalem. This fact disquieted Israeli policymakers. With their thorough knowledge of the Arabs' no less determined stance, they were particularly aware of the necessity of introducing fresh ideas with regard to the future of Jerusalem and of the danger that, if this did not happen, the problem could become an obstacle blocking any chance of a settlement. However, since they did not dare deviate from the national consensus, they concentrated their efforts on making proposals that did not clash with the principle of total Israeli sovereignty (see Chapter 7).
The Israeli proposals were directed at finding ways to satisfy the religious and communal needs of Jerusalem's non-Jewish residents and to solve the problem of the holy places. For example, Israel suggested granting extraterritoriality to the Christian holy places, self-administration to the Muslim holy places, and autonomy of religious jurisdiction to all of the city's religious communities. Ideas such as the decentralization of Jerusalem's municipal government and the establishment of an Arab sub-municipality in the context of an overall Israeli municipality were proposed. None of them ever came to anything since it was clear, from sounding out the Jordanians and Palestinians on the subject, that these ideas could not provide a basis for negotiations. In any case, no meaningful negotiations concerning Jerusalem were taking place, so priority was not given to political planning on that issue. Instead, Israel's position was expressed in practical terms by the establishment of demographic and physical "facts" in East Jerusalem. A massive building program (see Chapter 5) totally changed the face of the annexed areas. The Israelis had faith that in this way, physical factswould create political ones. They supposed that as time went by, the international community would grow used to the new situation and would moderate its opposition to the unilateral measures Israel was taking.
The Israeli occupation dealt an immeasurably powerful blow to the Palestinians, paralyzing them totally. When political activity finally began to revive, one policy line united all Palestinian streams—that of ending the occupation. No agreed upon political program outlining the manner of achieving this objective was in evidence. The ouster of the Israelis was, in effect, an ideal that they did not know how to realize. The possibilities they explored were armed insurrection, active nonviolent resistance, feigned acquiescence (while exploiting the enforced "rules of the game" to their own ends), and complete dependency on Jordan and the Arab states. The possibility of negotiating an agreement with the Israelis was not considered. As far as the Palestinians were concerned, the "abolition of the results of aggression" was not a matter for negotiation, and certainly not one on which there could be compromise. Moreover, there was no agreement about what the character of Palestinian relations with Israel should be after the termination of the occupation. Opinions were divided as to the political future of the West Bank and Jerusalem.
As a result, no clear Palestinian position regarding the solution of the problem of the occupied territories was formulated. The only common denominator to be found was refusal to recognize Israel as a legitimate negotiating partner. In the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War of October 1973, there began a process of political consolidation, reflected in the universal acceptance of the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian national movement. However, because this organization was a coalition, the disagreements continued. A moderate minority within the PLO supported the establishment of Palestinian rule in any territory of Palestine that became liberated, as an interim phase on the way to "the liberation of all of Palestine," and acknowledged that this objective could only be attained politically. In contrast, a majority opposed any politicalcourse of action and did not agree to the political objective of establishing a mini-state that would live in peace, even temporarily, with Israel.
Jordan's stance passed through a number of permutations. In the period following the 1967 war, King Hussein uncompromisingly demanded the restoration of his total control over East Jerusalem. Late in 1971, he began hinting at a willingness to be satisfied with sovereignty over just part of it: in conversations with the Israelis, he proposed leaving the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall in Israel's hands. He supported the principle of an "open city," meaning the physical reunification of Jerusalem. Despite these signs of flexibility regarding a territorial settlement, the Jordanian king stood by his demand for the restoration of his country's sovereign status in at least part of Jerusalem. He regarded himself as ordained by fate to preserve the Arab character of Jerusalem, and to hold it in trust for all Muslims. Hussein could not take any stance that would make him responsible for "the loss of the Holy City." In the plan for a Jordanian-Palestinian federation that he published in 1971, Hussein designated Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian province "of the federated United Arab Kingdom." His position became more rigid after the Yom Kippur War, but in March 1976 he declared: "In the context of a peace agreement, if Arab sovereignty is restored to (the Eastern) part of the city, I see no reason that the city should be divided. Jerusalem must be the city of all believers."
Ever since 1948, the United States has found itself in a strange position. It has been the principal supporter and promoter of the legal fiction called the "internationalization of Jerusalem," despite actively opposing it and cautioning others against its adoption. In 1949, when the UN General Assembly was debating the ratification of a resolution calling for the installation of an international regime in Jerusalem, the American representative warned that approval of the plan would involve the United Nations in countless difficulties in an attempt to attain objectives that were not all pertinent to the internationalcommunity. The Americans maintained that the resolution did not take into account the interests of the city's inhabitants and that it endangered international interests in Jerusalem. The General Assembly ratified the internationalization resolution despite U.S. opposition. That same year, the United States supported a Swedish proposal for the functional internationalization of the holy places, in place of territorial internationalization. On that occasion also, the U.S. position was rejected. In spite of taking this stand, the United States adhered to the legalistic position that it was bound by the General Assembly resolutions regarding the internationalization of Jerusalem. Officially, it recognized Israeli and Jordanian rule in Jerusalem as de facto only.
In the first weeks of Israeli occupation (in 1967), the United States took political stands favorable to Israel. It headed the bloc that thwarted a Soviet-Arab proposal wherein the General Assembly would have declared Israel an "aggressor" and ordered it to unconditionally withdraw from Jerusalem. The United States thereby prevented the Israeli occupation's being defined as illegal in international law. It acknowledged Israel's right of "belligerent occupation," a form of occupation whose legality is recognized in international law as extending until the time a peace treaty is signed. When Israel took measures to annex East Jerusalem, the United States was critical. The official American position was formulated by Arthur Goldberg, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, as follows: "The United States does not accept or recognize these measures [Israeli annexation] as altering the status of Jerusalem. My government does not recognize that the administrative measures taken by Israel on 28 June 1967—the passing of the Reunification Law—can be regarded as the last word on the matter [but can only be interpreted as] interim and provisional, and not as prejudging the final and permanent status of Jerusalem."
That is, Israeli claims notwithstanding, this was how the United States related to the Reunification Law. This critical stance was convenient for Israel because it expressed only moderate censure and left anopening for discussion of the "measures" themselves. Ambassador Charles Yost reiterated this position on July 1, 1969: "The United States considers that the part of Jerusalem that came under the control of Israel in the June 1967 war, like other areas occupied by Israel, is occupied territory and hence subject to the provision of international law governing the rights and obligations of an occupying power We have consistently refused to recognize those measures as having anything but a provisional character."
These declarations, as we shall see further on, were reiterated on various occasions, and represented the official U.S. policy on Jerusalem. Their verbal gymnastics, however, enabled the United States to take a moderate position in regard to Israel's massive construction activity in East Jerusalem.
The visit of President Sadat to Jerusalem in the fall of 1977 ushered in a new era in the history of the conflict over Jerusalem. The fact that the Egyptian president visited the city and spoke before the Knesset was interpreted by the Israelis as recognition of Jerusalem's status as Israel's capital. However, it quickly became clear that the problem had not been miraculously solved. The question of Jerusalem was raised at every bilateral encounter between Israel and Egypt, and at Camp David it even threatened to scuttle the entire conference: the Egyptian president brought up the issue and offered several draft proposals, but the Israelis refused to discuss any alteration to the status quo and objected to any reference being made to the problem of Jerusalem in the text of the documents of the accords. The Americans tried, under pressure from Sadat, to find some sort of symbolic solution—such as flying Muslim flags on the Temple Mount—but their suggestions were vehemently rejected by the Israelis. When it became clear that there was no chance of arriving at any agreement, the conference participants agreed to mention the Jerusalem problem only in letters that would be exchanged among the delegation heads—Carter, Begin, and Sadat—and appended to the body of the Camp David Accords. President Sadat, as one interested in a change in the Jerusalem situation, initiated the correspondence.
In his letter to President Carter, Sadat made the following points:
These formulations reflected a noticeable effort on the part of the Egyptians to adopt a moderate stance, similar to the official American position, as well as a clear attempt to present themselves as not opposing the physical unity of the city. Even so, the Egyptian position was completely contradictory to that held by the Israelis, who regarded political division and physical unity as diametric opposites. Prime Minister Begin wrote to President Carter: "On 28 June, Israel's parliament [the Knesset] promulgated and adopted a law . On the basis of this law, the government of Israel decreed in July 1967 [sic ] that Jerusalem is one city, indivisible, the capital of Israel." President Carter replied to the Egyptian president's letter, saying that "the position of the United States regarding Jerusalem remains as stated by Ambassador Goldberg to the United Nations General Assembly on 14 July 1967, and subsequently by Ambassador Yost, to the UN Security Council on 1 July 1969."
The position taken by President Sadat at Camp David did not differ greatly from that of King Hussein, nor was it more moderate with regard to Arab demands. However, the fact that Sadat agreed to sweep the Jerusalem problem aside and sign a document that made no reference to it upset the Saudis and was one of the main factors contributing to the tension between the two countries. The fact that the issue of Jerusalemwas not part of the peace process was also one of the factors given by Jordan as a reason for its nonparticipation. The Palestinians took a negative position vis-'-vis the peace process as a whole, as a matter of principle. And unlike the Egyptians, Jordan and Saudi Arabia were unwilling to agree to continued Israeli sovereignty even over West Jerusalem.
Differences of opinion regarding the application of the Camp David Accords to Jerusalem arose immediately with the start of negotiations concerning Palestinian self-rule. At every meeting the Egyptians demanded that the matter of Jerusalem be discussed and the Israelis rejected the demand. Each side based its stand on the Camp David Accords and accused the other of deviating from them. The argument mainly revolved around the Egyptian demand that the residents of East Jerusalem be granted the right to vote in elections to choose the Palestinian self-governing authority. In the early stages of the negotiations, Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan was not opposed to this demand; however, after a short while the Israeli government officially stated that it would not agree to the demand, since doing so would set a precedent for Jerusalem's being considered part of the "occupied territories" where autonomy was to be implemented.
This continual reference to the problem of Jerusalem was contrary to the scenario to which the Camp David participants had agreed, wherein Jerusalem was to have been last on the political agenda. The Israelis, Egyptians, and Americans all recognized the centrality of the Jerusalem problem, but since they also knew that this was the most complex and delicate of all the problems in the Middle East conflict, they sought to isolate it and agreed not to seek a resolution to it until other, smaller obstacles had been removed from the road to a comprehensive settlement. There was much logic to this position, except that the Egyptians and Israelis did not succeed in operating in accordance with it, and the Jerusalem problem was quickly moved to the center of the deliberations.
A number of factors combined to bring this about. Those who opposed Camp David—the "rejectionist front" in the Arab states andextremist elements in Israel and Egypt—stubbornly insisted on raising the question of Jerusalem in hopes that discussing it would sabotage the autonomy talks and perhaps the entire process of normalization of diplomatic relations between Israel and Egypt. Within the Egyptian administration itself, opinion was becoming increasingly strong that their not mentioning the issue of Jerusalem would be construed as meaning they were neglecting it. The Americans, who were striving to expand the scope of the peace negotiations and to end Egypt's isolation, saw a need to help create the conditions necessary for the integration of Jordan and Saudi Arabia into the peace process. In Israel there was a new school of thought—at variance with the conventional wisdom that Israel must work to the postpone the resolution of the Jerusalem problem—whose adherents demanded its being placed at the top of the agenda. However, Israeli statesmen had always considered leaving Jerusalem for last to be an extremely important tactical objective, since postponement of the debate would enable Israel to continue establishing faits accomplis in the city, thereby reinforcing its status.
The debate over Jerusalem took on the character of recurrent conflagrations, flaring up with increasing frequency and intensity. Positions became polarized and additional players were drawn into the fray. The Egyptians intensified the dispute by accentuating positions that they had always held but that they had blurred and downplayed in the past. The Israeli government reacted by establishing physical "facts" (through land confiscations and construction of government offices in East Jerusalem) and by making strong statements that were construed as closing the door on further negotiations. The Israeli reactions, unlike the Egyptian positions, made real alterations in the situation in the city, and Israel was thus blamed for the intensification of the dispute. Every Israeli reaction led to a counter reaction, and an unending cycle of escalating extremism resulted. A salient example of this process was the Knesset's ratification of the Law of Jerusalem—Capital of Israel. This law was introduced as a private member's bill in July 1980, by Knesset members opposed to the peace agreement, with theannounced objective of scuttling it. The Likud cabinet, which agreed with the wording of the proposed law (merely a reiteration of the prime minister's formulations from Camp David), dared not oppose it. The opposition likewise did not dare stand against it, for fear of being accused of "destroying the national unity over Jerusalem." Following the ratification of the law, Egypt withdrew from the autonomy talks, and Sadat publicly initiated an exchange of angry letters with the Israeli prime minister. Even countries friendly toward Israel were convinced that the law had altered the status of Jerusalem and therefore reacted by removing the few embassies remaining there.
This reaction to the Jerusalem Law provoked an Israeli counterreaction, which again took the form of establishment of a physical presence in the city. The endless chain of reactions and counterreactions resulted in increasingly entrenched positions on all sides. Chances of arriving at a solution to the problem seemed more remote than ever.
The Lebanon War (1982) and, in its aftermath, Israel's massive settlement activities and the construction of gigantic Jewish neighborhoods surrounding Jerusalem, led to the intensification of Palestinian protests, and Jerusalem became the focus of demonstrations and acts of terrorism. The sporadic rebellion, which was accompanied by efforts to improve the standard of living in Arab East Jerusalem (see Chapter 6), obscured the accumulation of rage by the Arab populace of Jerusalem from many observers until it erupted all at once toward the end of 1987. The Intifada totally altered day-to-day reality in Jerusalem. Months of commercial strikes, demonstrations, murders, stone throwing, and car torching caused Israelis to cease visiting East Jerusalem; the intercommunal rift deepened and became an abyss. The impact of the Intifada internationally forced all parties to the conflict to realize the necessity of embarking on diplomatic initiatives, and these directly affected Jerusalem.
In July 1988, King Hussein announced that he was cutting all legal and administrative ties with the West Bank. The king understood that there was no longer any chance of returning to the status quo ante ofthe unity of the two banks that his grandfather, King Abdullah, had created in 1948. Even so, Hussein maintained a direct connection with the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem and continued to finance the activities of the Muslim institutions in the city. In November 1988, the Palestine National Council declared the establishment of "the state of Palestine, in the land of Palestine, with its capital at Jerusalem."
In May 1989, the Israeli government published a "peace plan," the gist of which was the holding of elections for representatives who would carry on negotiations with Israel regarding an interim settlement and self-rule. This initiative foundered, one major reason being Israel's refusal to permit the Arab residents of East Jerusalem to vote in the elections on the grounds that the city was part of the State of Israel and not of the West Bank. The issue became a point of contention inside Israel, when the Likud-led government (and, following the election of a Labor-led coalition in 1992, the right-wing opposition) opposed the Jerusalem Arabs' voting, whereas the Labor government agreed to it under specific conditions.
In October 1990, the intercommunal tensions—which had increased in the face of the political paralysis, the continuing Intifada, and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait—erupted again. The Temple Mount massacre, in which seventeen Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli security forces (police and border guards) in and around the compound of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, was the most serious episode in the twenty-three years of Israeli occupation. It, in turn, generated a chain of serious acts of violence that continued until the convening of the peace conference in Madrid (October 1991).
In the discussions preceding the Madrid conference, the question of Jerusalem occupied a central place. Israel demanded that the city not be mentioned in the official invitations to the conference and that the Palestinian participants (within the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation) not be residents of East Jerusalem. The Palestinians, on the other hand, demanded that the United States issue them a letter of assurance in which it would reiterate its known (though downplayed) positionregarding nonrecognition of the annexation of Jerusalem, whose future would be determined by negotiation. The Americans solved the problem by not mentioning Jerusalem in the letters of assurance it sent to the Israelis, but by giving the Palestinians what they had requested in theirs. Thus, the Israelis and Palestinians both went to Madrid thinking that their (contradictory) preconditions had been met, and this anomaly was not discovered during the conference.
However, immediately following the conclusion of the ceremonial event and with the commencement of the bilateral talks in Washington, the dispute over Jerusalem erupted openly. The Palestinians stuck by their claim that Jerusalem was an inseparable part of the occupied territories and that therefore all of the agreements in the interim settlement that applied to the West Bank must apply to Jerusalem as well, and that Jerusalem must become the capital of the Palestinian state in the context of the permanent settlement. Israel vehemently opposed any discussion of East Jerusalem, even though the ban on East Jerusalemite Faisal al-Husseini's participation in the deliberations of the Israeli-Palestinian committee was lifted in the wake of Labor's ascent to power (in mid-1992). The Americans recommended postponing discussion of the question of Jerusalem until after the negotiations for the permanent settlement, but the Palestinians refused, since "Israel is establishing physical and other sorts of 'facts' that could potentially predetermine the situation and leave nothing to discuss in the future." When the talks reached a stalemate (and there are those who claim that this was a deliberate tactic on the part of PLO Chairman Yassir 'Arafat), it was suddenly revealed that the Madrid process was merely a diversionary tactic, and that the real deliberations had been conducted in Oslo in complete secrecy.
In the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles signed in September 1993, the Palestinians agreed to what they had rejected at the bilateral talks in Washington, namely the removal of discussion of Jerusalem from the context of the interim agreement: "Jurisdiction of the [Palestinian] Council [self-governing authority] will cover the WestBank and Gaza Strip territory except for issues that will be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations: Jerusalem, settlements, etc."
Right-wing circles in Israel regarded Israel's willingness to discuss Jerusalem at all as undermining its status as "Israel's unified capital," but as we have seen previously, the Likud government headed by Menachem Begin had also been prepared to discuss the issue of Jerusalem in the context of peace negotiations. The Declaration of Principles also stated that "Palestinians of Jerusalem who live there will have [the] right to participate in the election process." Both sides exhibited apparent flexibility on issues regarding Jerusalem. The Israelis agreed to a liberal interpretation of the passive and active voting rights of the Palestinians (i.e., the right to vote and to be elected)—an issue that had been a source of disagreement for years—leaving the way open for interpretations defining Jerusalem as a part of the West Bank. The Palestinians relented on their principal demand for immediate discussion of the Jerusalem issue and agreed to postpone it despite the fact that they well knew the Israelis were energetically at work establishing irreversible "facts" in East Jerusalem. However, this mutual flexibility was not actually an indication that their polarized positions had become less so. The Declaration of Principles and the agreements that were signed in its wake allowed Israel to specify that the Palestinian Authority would be entitled to operate only in the territories turned over to its control, and that it was forbidden to maintain any official institutions in Jerusalem. The Palestinians, for their part, agreed to postpone the discussion of Jerusalem only after Foreign Minister Shimon Peres promised the PLO chairman (in a letter addressed to the Norwegian foreign minister) that the Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem were very important and would be preserved. All of these institutions, "including economic, social, educational, and cultural institutions as well as Christian and Muslim holy places, fulfill a vital role for the Palestinian population. Needless to say, we shall not interfere with their operation. On the contrary, the fulfillment of this important role merits encouragement." These institutions, andparticularly Orient House, which had become the hub of Palestinian political and diplomatic endeavors, stepped up their activities, and this became an embarrassment to the Israeli government. The Palestinian Authority's activities in East Jerusalem became a weapon in the hands of the right—especially Jerusalem's mayor, Ehud Olmert, Teddy Kollek's successor (see Chapter 4)—who denounced the government for pursuing a policy promoting the redivision of the city and its abandonment to the Palestinians.
Under pressure from the right, the government was compelled, in late 1994, to pass a special law authorizing the police to close any institution connected with the Palestinian Authority, and requiring any activity of the Authority "within the precincts of the State of Israel" (i.e., East Jerusalem) to have the approval of the Israeli authorities. This attempt by the Israeli government to treat the Palestinian Authority like a foreign governing body forbidden to operate outside its area of jurisdiction was indeed based on the Palestinian Authority's commitment not to do so, but was, of course, pathetically futile. No law can sever the Palestinian people's attachment to Jerusalem and make it into a "foreign country." The very fact of Israel's recognition of the Palestinian national collective, embodied in the Declaration of Principles, and the willingness to conduct negotiations regarding the realization of its national rights created an entirely new state of affairs in Jerusalem. It essentially imparted legitimacy to this national collective in Jerusalem as well, and recognized its attachment to the city. The approximately 200,000 Palestinians (who have not taken Israeli citizenship) living in East Jerusalem feel that they are entitled to be a part of their own national body, to organize their communal life and to unite around their national slogans and the governing institutions they agree upon.
The internal contradiction in the Declaration of Principles between the "principles" component—mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO—and the practical component—the setting up of a Palestinian Authority with limited authority—was temporarily dealt with by postponing discussion about the full extent of Palestinian self-determination.
But both sides well knew that no problem had really been solved, and both therefore set out to establish additional "facts" to improve their situation, come the hour of decision.
The Israelis persisted in their policy of establishing a physical presence and accelerated the pace of construction of Jewish neighborhoods in the city and its surrounding areas. They also attempted to hamper the Palestinians' activities by shutting down their institutions in East Jerusalem. However, they were unable to actively prevent the Palestinians from establishing their own presence: the establishment of research institutes and cultural and educational centers, and the transformation of their political center, Orient House, into a virtual foreign ministry, where the prime ministers and foreign ministers of many countries came to pay official visits. The Israelis, of course, enjoyed a clear advantage, having all the force of a sovereign state at their disposal, but they repeatedly were made to realize their limitations: no form of coercion that they could apply was capable of suppressing the Palestinians' collective attachment to Jerusalem and its concrete manifestations. The struggle for Jerusalem has not been decided, and the need to mobilize the rival communities to continue it "till victory" has generated ceremonies like the "Jerusalem 3,000" on the Israeli side and the commemoration of 5,000 years since the Jebusites" by the Arabs. Nearly 100 years after the problem of Jerusalem arose, it still awaits a solution.
Is it possible to unravel the enigma of Jerusalem? In order to seriously deal with this question, one must leave the quarry of history and walk through the shadows and twisting alleyways of the earthly Jerusalem.
Excerpted from City of Stone by Meron Benvenisti Copyright © 1998 by Meron Benvenisti. Excerpted by permission.
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