In the current issue of Bitterlemons, Israeli lawyer Danny Seidemann, an expert on East Jerusalem specializing in Israeli-Palestinian relations who founded the Ir-Amim organization [which works for an equitably shared Jerusalem], writes that: “Any attempt to construe the API [Arab Peace Initiative] in a manner that falls short of ‘full-stop’ Palestinian or Arab sovereignty on the Haram/Mount would be an exercise in self-delusion. This is the real challenge for the API. Achieving an Israeli waiver of sovereign claims to the Mount/Haram and the surrounding areas will be one of the most daunting challenges of any permanent status agreement. The potential to secure an Israeli waiver of sovereign claims, to the extent such potential exists, is embedded in the logic of the API. Israelis correctly perceive Palestinian/Arab denials of historic Jewish connections to Jerusalem as a litmus test, disclosing the acceptance or rejection of authentic Jewish connections to Israel/Palestine. Absent an affirmative acceptance of these connections, demands to cede Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount would almost certainly be rejected out of hand, as such an action would for Israelis be accompanied by a sense of violation and feared loss of legitimacy of the entire historic enterprise that is modern Israel. On the other hand were the permanent status agreement, loyal to the inner logic of the API, to include declarations recognizing the legitimacy of Jewish attachments and provisions guaranteeing the inviolability of Jewish equities under Palestinian/Arab sovereignty, the calculus could change significantly. In effect, the Palestinian/Arab sovereign would declare itself the custodian of Jewish memories and their physical embodiments. The act of assuring protection of archeological artifacts and guaranteeing access for non-Muslims to the Haram/Mount, would significantly increase the willingness of Israelis to entertain the possibility of such sovereignty. And, indeed, such a development is not implausible: today, from Rabat to Beirut, Cairo and Damascus, Arab governments are restoring Jewish synagogues because the historic, legitimate Jewish presence in their countries is part of their interpretation of Arab civilization–an interpretation shared by the API.”
Seidemann writes: “In conclusion, the API has the potential to ‘speak the language’ of Jerusalem well. Its focus on the green line, with agreed modifications, is consistent with the growing consensus in Israel that Israeli rule over East Jerusalem is untenable in the long run. And indeed, based on the API’s principles, validating Jewish attachments to areas that fall under Palestinian/Arab sovereignty–an act that would, in parallel, demand validation of Muslim attachments to sites within Israel, like the Mamilla cemetery–would likely be far less difficult than resolving what for the Palestinians and the Arab world is the highly problematic Israeli demand for recognition of ‘the Jewish character’ of Israel. All that said, the concern, even passion, in the Arab world regarding Jerusalem/al-Quds is undoubtedly genuine–but not always accompanied by a familiarity with the rival equities in the city, an appreciation of the city’s real-time complexities, or a respect for the genuine concerns of Israelis and Jews. For these reasons, stakeholders in the API need to begin to educate themselves and their populations about Jerusalem. In doing so, they can begin to leverage the API to make real progress on Jerusalem. They can use it to generate potential permanent status positions that are compatible with both the complexities of the city and the sensitivities in the Jewish, Muslim and Christian worlds, and that contribute to building confidence in the API as a tool to energize Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and, ultimately, achieve Israel-Arab peace“.
This article was published on 12 January 2011 here.