In the event of a two-state solution to the Palestine-Israel dispute, what are the options for governing Jerusalem? This was the question I started to explore in the presentation I gave at the U.N. conference in Malta last Friday. I have now edited the paper I presented there sufficiently that I can publish a preliminary version of it here. (This is not a final version. If anyone wants to cite it, please contact me, and I’ll let you know how you can refer to it.)
My basic argument is that if you want to have a two-state solution then that will require either redividing Jerusalem– and there really seem to be few good options for doing that– or else, if you want to keep Jerusalem whole, then that will require revisiting some new version of the old “Corpus separatum” model for the city.
And whichever of those options you choose, it will require having a high level of coordination between the governments of the two states. Indeed, the level of coordination between the two states will need to be so high that it may well seem either a short step from there– or even, perhaps, easier altogether– not to bother about having two separate states but rather to move straight to some form of unitary state system for the whole of Israel/Palestine.
From this point of view, grappling with the question of how to share control of Jerusalem can be seen as a productive way to ease into a conversation about how to share control of the whole area of Mandate Palestine.
All this is predicated, of course, on the assumption that no two-state solution will be viable at all unless there is a high degree of Palestinian control over significant portions of the city, including not only the claimed Muslim and Christian holy sites but also most of the rest of occupied East Jerusalem. If that is not assured, then no proposal at all will be “sellable” to the very numerous Palestinian and global Muslim publics.
Similarly, if a high degree of control over the claimed Jewish Holy sites is not offered to representatives of the Jewish/Israeli population, then no proposal will be sellable to Israelis and their supporters around the world.
The “high degree of control” I am talking about is not the same as sovereignty, since if any proposal is to be viable and sustainable it will have to involve some sharing of control, in vary proportions, between the two states/peoples. In addition, we should note that the rights of religious access to claimed holy places nowhere in the world confer any right for permanent residence or political control over the site viewed as holy; so in all these cases other criteria should be used to determine the sovereignty status of the areas in question, and international or local agreements should be sought in order to win recognition of the rights of access for pilgrimage visits.
So, back to the question of how to govern Jerusalem in the event of a two-state solution. The most highly developed, concrete plan for how a two-state outcome could be devised in practice is the one hammered out by the non-governmental Israeli and PA-backed Palestinian negotiators of the Geneva Initiative. In the detailed annexes that the G.I. published last fall, they proposed driving a hard national border right through the city, along the purple line drawn in this map. The green line there is the old Green Line of the pre-1967 division of the city. The red lozenge demarcates those portions of the Old City that would remain in Palestinian hands.
This arrangement looks to me as if it has a number of great disadvantages:
- 1. It produces an extremely convoluted line that clearly rewards nearly all of the very extensive, illegal settlement-building project that Israel has pursued in and around occupied East Jerusalem over the course of the past 43 years by announcing the final annexation of the large settlement blocs to Israel under the partition the G.I. negotiators proposed.
2. It perpetuates some of the extreme difficulties of contiguity, contact, and access that Palestinians in the area currently suffer, as a result of Israel’s settlement-building and construction of the Wall; and
3. It involves driving a hard division not only through the whole of metropolitan Jerusalem but also through the heart of the Old City itself.
On this latter point, I don’t want to fetishize the idea of making or keeping a city united. (And the division of Jerusalem that existed from 1948 through 1967 wasn’t all bad, for the vast majority of residents of both ‘sides’ of the city.) But the idea of driving a hard boundary through the heart of the Old City strikes me as just as crazy as the idea of pushing the boundary out into all those ridiculous, disruptive and jerrymandering loops– we could call them diverticula– whose purpose is solely to allow all those massive settlement blocs to remain on the ‘Israeli’ side of the line.
For all these reasons, and others, I think there’s a lot to be said for looking again at the older idea of creating a “special regime” for Jerusalem, different from the governance systems in the areas of either Israel or Palestine that lie outside the metropolitan region. I will call this model the Corpus Separatum 2.0, because it has several features that are quite distrinct from those of the CS that was stipulated in the U.N.’s 1947 Partition Plan, but that was stillborn at the time.
The main differences are as follows:
- 1. CS 2.0 would not have the ‘imperialist’ overtones that CS 1.0 had. CS-2.o’s intention would be to make governing Jerusalem into a joint project of all of its legitimate residents, rather than of an “international community” that is actually dominated by western colonialists or indeed any other outside powers. The definition of who qualifies as a legitimate voter/resident within Jerusalem is of course an extremely important one, that I will further explore below.
2. Back in 1947, CS 1.0 was a chunk of land that, the distant U.N powers determined, should be gouged wholly out of the Palestinian Arab state they proposed establishing, and would be an isolated island surrounded by the territory of the proposed (but equally stillborn) Palestinian Arab state. But if the CS 2.0 is to encompass some version of the area of current Metropolitan Jerusalem, or current Greater Jerusalem, it will necessarily straddle the borders of the two states of Palestine and Israel. (This map handily shows what happened to the borders between 1947 and 1967.) Therefore, having a CS 2.0 today can far more easily and appropriately be viewed as joint project that can unite the two states in a common endeavor, rather than simply an imperialist or other foreign swallowing-up of land only from the Palestinian side.
So my proposal is this: that instead of driving a hard boundary through the heart of the city– and even through the heart of the Old City– a semi-hard security “ring” be drawn around the whole of the city demarcating its special status… And that where that security barrier runs between CS-Jerusalem and Palestine, it should be entirely permeable to Palestinians for the purposes of all forms of access and visiting (but not necessarily of residence), and where it runs between CS-Jerusalem and Israel, it should be entirely permeable to Israelis for the purposes of all forms of access and visiting (but not necessarily of residence).
CS-Jerusalem would thus be a place where citizens of Palestine and Israel could freely meet, mingle, and do business. But Israelis could not pass easily through the border between CS-Jerusalem and Palestine, and Palestinians could not easily pass between it and Israel. And both states could have their national capitals inside the city along with the institutions that support that function.
Under this plan, the entire city would be a demilitarized “Zone of Peace”. Quite appropriate for a city that so many billions of monotheistic believers from around the world consider to be so sacred!
The question of course arises as to who, under this scheme, should have the right of residence in the city, a right that would carry with it the additional right of voting on municipal-governance affairs. My suggestion would be that all Israeli citizens currently resident within its bounds should have this right, along with all Palestinians, wherever they currently live, who can prove their family’s historic links to areas within the CS’s boundaries. And of course, some fair mechanism needs to be established for adjudicating all the many, often conflicting, real-property claims that still remain as a legacy both of the practices of both the past 43 years of Israeli control, occupation, and illegal settlement in East Jerusalem, and of the (highly asymmetrical) ethnic cleansings that took place in each half of the city in the 1947-49 period.
The citizens of the city– both Israeli and Palestinian– would be the ones who elect a unified city government that has jurisdiction over all aspects of city planning and governance, which might or might not be conducted through a “borough” system, like the one used in New York. The city government would also be responsible for all aspects of physical administration and control of the Holy Places, in close coordination with the relevant religious authorities.
Of course, a lot more work would need to be done to flesh out the Corpus Separatum 2.0 model that I’m proposing here. But meantime, I have a few further notes to add to this proposal:
First: At the Malta conference I was lucky enough to spend a little time, after I’d given my presentation, talking to Yossi Beilin, the former Israeli deputy foreign minister who has always been the leading light, on the Israeli side, of the whole Geneva Initiative. I told him I hoped he did not feel I had been too critical of the G.I.’s plan for Jerusalem. (He graciously said he thought I hadn’t, and he was used to criticism anyway.) But, I said, I really thought the idea of driving a hard national border– once again– through the heart of the city, as the G.I. proposed, seemed like a very bad idea.
He replied that he understood my point of view. And he added that actually, it had been his strong original hope that Jerusalem could remain united under some scheme similar to the one I had just outlined; but that he thought that the line of the national border as it would run through the city should anyway be previously demarcated, so that in the event the project to collaborate in governance of a unified city should fail, both sides would know from the get-go how it would be divided… He said that proposal did not win the agreement of the rest of the G.I. team, which adopted the “hard” redivision plan instead.
Second: One of the sources I cite in my Malta conference paper is this paper, recently published by the British expert Michael Dumper in a recent issue of The Jerusalem Quarterly. The whole paper is certainly worth reading. After closely examining the main challenges that governance of Jerusalem presents in the context of a two-state outcome, Dumper concludes that,
[I]f Jerusalem is to exist as a functioning city, even in a two state model of very low integration [between the two states], the needs of the city will drive the state-to-state coordinating process toward a more profound and complex levels. The result will be a two-state plus model which will have similar features and functions as a diluted confederal model of a bi-national state.
Third: Dumper himself concludes, importantly, that the conclusions he draws from his consideration of the problem “just” of the governance of Jerusalem,
opens up a normative space for a more considered discussion on the merits of binationalism and a two-state plus model. It suggests that the consideration of binationalism in the forms that have been outlined above is not identical to the eradication of the Israeli state or the defeat of Palestinian nationalism. It is not an existential threat to either national grouping and that those discussing these ideas are neither anti-Semitic or defeatist. The exploration of the ideas that make up binationalism and two-state plus may lead in fact to more flexible and appropriate models for Palestinian-Israeli co-existence than the two state model has done hitherto.
He also suggests the intriguing hypothesis that:
conflict resolution objectives and confidence-building programmes inside divided cities [could] percolate upwards and contribute significantly to the processes of peace-making and reconciliation between states.
This is a proposition that I, too, have been increasingly drawn to over the years. Specifically, in the Jerusalem context, I have argued for a while now that if negotiators tackled the Jerusalem Question first of all– rather than leaving it, as 20 years of Washington-dominated ‘peace processing’ have insisted on doing, until the ever-receding horizon of some “final-status” talks– then by finding a workable resolution to the Jerusalem Question the negotiators could thereafter much more easily find a resolution to all the other issues on the final-status agenda.
In addition, Dumper’s work, like my own, strongly suggests that the kinds of workable and fair solutions that might emerge for Jerusalem might well form a model for the kinds of solutions that might work at the level of national rather than purely municipal governance.
In this context, the idea of a single, demilitarized city whose governance is shared equitably among all its legitimate residents (whose legitimate property claims from the past would also have to be satisfied in a fair way within the context of the settlement) would become the model for a single, demilitarized country whose governance is shared equitably among all its legitimate residents (whose legitimate property claims from the past would have to be satisfied in a fair way within the context of the settlement).
That was why I titled the paper I presented in Malta, “Jerusalem as a Bridge from two States to One”. In other words, once you’ve sorted out how resolve the many challenges involved in devising a fair and sustainable formula for the governance of Jerusalem, why bother with keeping those two other “wings” that would otherwise spread out from it: the “independent states” of Israel and Palestine?
Why not just expand CS-“Jerusalem”, with its system of equitably shared governance, to encompass the whole country and have a single state there?
Either way, I think, it is very appropriate to see Jerusalem as a “model” (that is, a representation in miniature) of the broader state of relations between Israelis and Palestinians. Right now– and for 43 years stretching back from now– Jerusalem has been a place of radically inequitable power imbalance, Palestinian marginalization and exclusion, and Israeli colonial land-grabbing and domination. Is that not the situation between the two peoples in the area of Mandate Palestine, too?
But what if Jerusalem were reconceived as a place where “control” is equitably shared, the grievances of the past have been satisfactorily addressed, and the governmental authorities are transparently accountable to all the legitimate residents of the city? Could that not also be a model for the broader situation?