I often hear about the root problem with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is settlements and Jews encroaching on Arab lands. Ten years ago, I agreed with the concept of pulling settlers from the West Bank and Gaza. Israel did so in Gaza and the result is obviously the very opposite of a success. Hamas took over with a steady stream of over 8,000 rockets that sailed for almost a decade into southern Israel and they organized suicide bombers that infiltrated Israel. Israel responded with isolating Gaza and regulating what went in/ out. Unfortunately, Hamas still is able to obtain weapons and continues to focus on attacking Israel over improving the life of the people living there. So, while I still feel settlements in these territories are not beneficial to the discussion, I think their removal will not result in peace with the Palestinians. There needs to be a fundamental shift in the Palestinian mindset to want to make a better life through non-violent means.
So you may be asking how does the settlements subject relate to the question of whether Jerusalem should be divided or unified. Well, I feel many people in the world think that dividing Jerusalem will give each side a piece of the holy city and both sides will be happy and peaceful. If land/ ownership were the root cause for the conflict, such an assumption could be plausible. Obviously, it would be difficult to establish a border through the Old City. So it got me to wonder what was the mindset at the end of World War I, and the intent and designs put forth by the League of Nations. I found a very interesting You Tube video by Dr. Gauthier under the The Jerusalem Center Channel. You can see the video that summarizes the content of his 1200 page thesis at:
Gauthier is a Canadian Lawyer, who spent the last 20 years researching the subject of Jerusalem as related to International Law. He begins with an overview of Theodore Herzl (1897) and the Balfour Declaration (1917), but spends much of his time focused on the San Remo Conference of April 24-25, 1920. This conference was a continuation of earlier gatherings held by the victors of World War I to determine how to handle a vast array of issues, including setting national borders for new nation-states and mandates. The resolution was BINDING between the parties namely Britain, France, Italy and Japan. It subsequently became binding on all 52 members of the League of Nations when they confirmed it unanimously on July 24, 1922. The binding 1922 map looked as follows:
Don’t think for a second I am advocating the West Bank and Gaza become part of Israel. The intent and structure of Israel (known in the San Remo Conference at Jewish Palestine) changed with the partition plan from UN Resolution 181. As the Arab nations did not agree to the partition plan, its borders/ design are not recognized as legally binding, so this resolution became merely a recommended solution by the UN General Assembly that was rejected by parties involved. Nonetheless, it is the corpus separatum clause regarding Jerusalem that I found most interesting. In short, the resolution described setting up Jerusalem as an international city. So, there was no intent to divide the city of Jerusalem.
Some might state that UN Resolutions 242 and 338, require Israel to return to its pre-six day war/ 1949 armistice lines, but the writing in those resolutions are vague in terms of what should be returned, and implicitly directs the establishment of secure and recognized boundaries as agreed by both parties. There was also no mention of Jerusalem in these resolutions. The 1993/ 1995 Oslo Accords Agreements were similar and left the outcome of Jerusalem to be decided as part of ‘permanent status negotiations’. When we look at the 2000 Camp David Accords, the consideration of splitting Jerusalem was first introduce by Ehud Barak. I feel Barak was trying to find reasonable compromises related to Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, Israeli settlements, security and borders. Yasser Arafat rejected these conditions, clearly he does not subscribe to the philosophy of its better to have part of something than all of nothing.
As a person who has traveled to Jerusalem multiple times, I feel dividing the city (specifically the old city) is not a viable option. Even more important, no such intent has been agreed upon in past resolutions or binding agreements. I agree access to the holy sites by all religions is important, but that can be managed by a single governing body. I fail to understand why Israel in today’s day and age should embrace an internationally administered Jerusalem, as described by the null and void UN Resolution 181. I do however agree with its thinking that Jerusalem should be unified.
Maybe it is worthwhile to let the people in Jerusalem vote on whether they are part of Israel, Palestine or an International City. They have made Jerusalem their home and they should have a say in regards to their city. I doubt the voting results will be based purely on Jerusalem’s Demographics, but I am sure it would be an interesting process and outcome for the world to watch.