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Hebrew University
Scholars Willful Blindness: HUJ Professor Moshe Amirav as a Case in Point

Editorial Note

An international conference on the Question of Jerusalem seeking an independent Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem took place recently. It was sponsored by the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. The conference was held in Rabat, Morocco, between the 26 to 28 June 2018 and among the mostly Palestinian speakers was the Israeli Prof. Moshe Amirav of the Hebrew University Rothberg International School. 

As an expert on Jerusalem, Amirav's talk was clearly serving Palestinian interests alone. He ridiculed Israel's dream of Jerusalem's unification and peace by calling it "the pathological phenomenon known as the Jerusalem Syndrome".  He requested that Israeli politicians should go through "soul-searching" and his solution was, "I can foresee two cities within Jerusalem. The capital of Palestine, Al Quds, fifty square kilometers on the east side of the current city, and the capital of Israel, Jerusalem, sixty square kilometers on the west side.” Blind to Palestinian rejectionism, at times Amirav's narrative was at odds with facts. For example, when he stated that in 1987 "During our meetings we arrived at a mutual agreement based on two capitals in one city. We agreed that the eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem would be Al Quds, the capital of Palestine." Yet he neglected to note that Sari Nusseibeh, one of the leading Palestinian negotiators, was severely wounded a few days after meeting Amirav and Ehud Olmert, by four masked men on the Birzeit University campus. Such an act of violence should have signaled to Amirav a rejection to the "mutual agreement".

According to the Amirav analysis from his 2002 book, Jerusalem played only a secondary role in the Arab-Israeli conflict. He wrote that after Jordan gave up its demand for sovereignty over the West Bank in 1988 then the PLO became the sole claimant to Jerusalem vis-a-vis Israel.  He detailed the Palestinian strategy formulated in the 1990s, which was "to counter the facts on the ground set by Israel in Jerusalem. The essence of this strategy, which was led and guided mostly by Faisal Husseini, can be summed up in one word: 'Zumud'. In light of Israeli experience to deprive the city's Arabs of a physical and symbolic hold to the city, this strategy sought to build physical, demographic, and symbolic infrastructures, which will be facts on the ground to match those of Israel. A formation of a Palestinian community around many national and autonomous institutions, the most prominent among them was the Orient House, created the grounds for the 'becoming capital city.'  This strategy, more than relying on self-initiative, was largely based on detecting the weaknesses of the Israeli policy, which demonstrated a long-term weakness in its 'Israelization' policy." If Amirav saw Jerusalem as originally only a secondary issue, why was he pushing Israel to give up Eastern Jerusalem, as he stated ia conversation with Haaretz in December 2002, that sooner or later Israel will be forced to "get rid of the Temple Mount" and give it as a gift to the countries of Islam?

In 2000, Amirav was instrumental during the Camp David II Summit with Yasser Arafat, as an advisor to Ehud Barak.  As well known, the Israelis offered the Palestinians a return of virtually the entire West Bank and Gaza, a capital in Abu Dis and a condominium of the Holy Basin, that is the Old City.   Much to the surprise of the Israeli delegation and the Clinton administration, Arafat refused, walking away from the best offer which the Palestinians had ever received. 

By his own admission, Amirav was devastated by the failure of the summit, but he never lost hope. In one of his more recent interviews on ILTV, the good professor stated that he is still dreaming about a peaceful Jerusalem.   On its face, Amirav’s dream may sound admirable.  But for those with even a passing knowledge of the events which led up to Camp David II show that the professor suffers from a deplorable case of willful blindness.

While Arafat and the PLO were initially ready to clench the deal, they came under tremendous pressure from the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).  A few months after Yitzhak Rabin and Arafat signed the Declaration of Principles in Washington in 1993, the Iranian regime which viewed the liberation of Jerusalem as its foundational principle, decided to act as a spoiler of the peace process.  Helped by Hezbollah, the Revolutionary Guards and their foreign operations unit Quds Force, trained Palestinian jihadists in suicide bombing and other tools of terror.  As a result, during the 1990s, thousands of Israelis died or were wounded, raising questions about Arafat’s ability or willingness to control the militants.  In 1999, when Ehud Barak came to power, Iran and its proxies increased the pressure both on the Israeli public and on Arafat who decided that under the circumstances he would not be able to strike a deal.   Publicly, he spread the theory that Jews have no right to Jerusalem because their Temple was located in Nablus.  According to Dennis Ross, the chief American negotiator, the PLO chairman repeated this version during the Camp David II meeting, much to the astonishment of other participants.  Moshe Amirav was one of the participants so he should know and if he forgot he can look at Wikipedia under Temple Denial.  It was also during the meeting that Arafat demanded the return of the Palestinians refugees and their descends, a clear deal-breaker as far as the Israelis were concerned.   Privately, Arafat began preparations for a new intifada, going as far as asking the Iranians for arms and munitions which were discovered when the Israeli navy intercepted Karine-A, in early 2001.  Separately, Hezbollah tried to send weapons through Gaza and Egypt.  Palestinian leaders, including Mahmoud Abbas, would later admit that Arafat’s decision to launch a new intifada was a mistake. Ahmed Qurie admitted the pressure by the proxies in his book Peace Negotiations in Palestine: From the Second Intifada to the Roadmap, castigating the “persistence of the separate agendas of the militant factions.” Qurie explained that as the Palestinian leaders tried to pursue negotiations, the “competing voices from the militant Palestinian factions began to talk about making preparations for a battle of Jerusalem, or even a battle for the liberation and independence of the entirety of the Palestinian territories.”

There is abundance of research to indicate that Iran and its proxies acted as spoilers in the Oslo peace process.  However, Professor Amirav is not likely to use any of this material because it would undermine his narrative. Unfortunately, Amirav is not the only one to suffer from such willful blindness. Almost two decades after the failure of Camp David II and the bloody Second Intifada which followed it, the role of Iran has not been discussed. Collectively, this willful blindness of many radical Israeli activist-scholars created a “politically correct” version of the recent history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  

International Conference on Jerusalem Seeks Independent Palestinian State, Capital in East Jerusalem

July 2, 2018
Morocco World News  

5th International Conference on Jerusalem Opens in Rabat

By Dana Leger

Rabat – The International Conference on the Question of Jerusalem in Rabat concluded Thursday evening, June 28, after two days of discussions from Palestinian, Israeli, and international experts as well as youth from East Jerusalem.

Representative of Palestine, Ambassador Riyad Mansour, expressed his gratitude to the Kingdom of Morocco for its hospitality, noting, “His majesty [King Mohammed VI] set the right course for this conference,” on Tuesday with his opening letter.

“What we need is peace and to diffuse the situation. We do not need a massive rupture on religious ground in Jerusalem because that will be catastrophic for all of us.”

“This is the year we have to double our efforts.”

‘Under Israeli occupation Palestinian lives don’t matter’

The conference opened Wednesday, June 27, with a statement from UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Miroslav Jen?a on Israeli settlements: “Ongoing settlement construction and expansion in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem is a major obstacle to peace. It is illegal under UN resolutions and international law and must be halted and reversed.”

In the first plenary panel, experts had harsh words for Israeli and US policy.

Abdallah Siam, Deputy Governor for Jerusalem, argued that Israeli policies aim to push Palestinians out of Jerusalem. He referred to policies based on principles such as strengthening the Jewish character of the city, the growth of Israeli settlements, and the occupation of Palestinian lands.

In the same panel, Lara Friedman, representative from the Foundation for Middle East Peace, spoke about the effects of the move of the US embassy to West Jerusalem from Tel-Aviv. According to her, this action seems to have been intended to end the question of Jerusalem unilaterally – albeit unsuccessfully – and that such a move diminished the chances of the US acting as a sponsor of the Middle East peace process.

However, she added, “I’ve never seen so many people focusing on Jerusalem… the unintended consequence for Trump’s move is that the world is paying attention.”

Daniel Seidemann, from Terrestrial Jerusalem, compared the Israeli occupation to a disease spreading throughout the body and stated that, “under Israeli occupation Palestinian lives don’t matter very much and often they don’t matter at all.”

He added that the current US administration did not understand the realities on the ground, and that solving the question of Jerusalem requires a valid Palestinian State. “That is the essence of occupation – not being able to control your own life.”

Amneh Badran of Al-Quds University, in accordance with Siam, stated that Israeli policies aimed at pushing Palestinians out of Jerusalem are an effort to change the city’s demographics through land-grabbing by military force and occupational laws.

Urging for resistance, she added, “Supporting people on the ground is the most important. If we don’t have something done to change the balance of power on the ground, the Palestinian presence in this city is threatened. We need to insure that Jerusalemites remain in Jerusalem.”

Badran also called for investment in key sectors such as education, health, and youth programs as part of a partnership between international donors, governmental and non-governmental actors in order to enable Palestinians to remain in Jerusalem.

‘It’s not a conflict. It’s an occupation.’

In the second plenary panel, Ziad Abuzayyad, former minister for Jerusalem Affairs, reviewed a number of related UN resolutions, and found that the “United States of America transferred its embassy to Jerusalem in violation of all of the international resolutions,” and “the Israeli claim to sovereignty over Jerusalem has no basis in UN General Assembly Resolution 181.”

He also questioned the term “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” saying it should be removed from the general vocabulary and replaced with “Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.” He asserted, “It’s not a conflict. It’s an occupation.”

Moshe Amirav of Hebrew University insisted that Jerusalem is a city for everyone, and that he hopes the conflict can be resolved to return Jerusalem to the City of Peace – as it is named in the Bible.

Coming of age under occupation: Palestinian youth in East Jerusalem

In the third plenary, Shoroq Nammari, one of the youth from East Jerusalem who works for Palestinian Vision, talked about the struggle of residency and citizenship for Palestinians. She expressed the fears of Palestinians in Jerusalem that their residency can be revoked at any time for unprecedented reasons, declaring that “those who do not express their loyalty to the occupation should not be punished.”

“We will continue to resist until we establish a Palestinian state and our rights to self determination have been attained,” she added.

Ali Ghaith, a freelance journalist, spoke of the poor educational systems in place for Palestinian youth in Jerusalem. He explained that the cheapest and most well-equipped schools are the Israeli schools. Many Palestinian families can only afford to send their children to Israeli schools, where the aim of the “Israeli curriculum is to erase the Palestinian nationalism from the minds of young people.”

Sami Mshasha, speaking on behalf of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNWRA), also spoke of the occupiers’ attempts to “Israelize” the minds of Palestinian young people.

Palestinian rights in the international community

In the fourth and final plenary, Mohamed Salem Cherkaoui, of Rabat’s Bayt Mal al-Quds Al-Sharif, gave a brief history of Moroccan-Palestinian relations which began over 800 years ago. “Moroccans have thereby become the trusted neighbors of the Jerusalemites and Palestinians and these links have been upheld over time.”

A representative from the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ufuk Ulutas, noted that the situation is not being helped by the US. “The US has chosen to be part of the problem instead of part of the solution.” He added, “Any deal that is short of making East Jerusalem the capital of Palestine cannot and will not work.”

Roberto Valent of the UNDP said the situation could not continue as it is now and urged for more efforts on the ground. “We cannot ask populations to remain in positions that require humanitarian assistance.”

At the conclusion of the conference, Fouad Akhrif Mofa, speaking as a representative of Morocco, stated, “The success of this conference was a result of the prominence and knowledge of the expertise from various nations.”


“The Question of Jerusalem after 50 years of Occupation and 25 years of the Oslo Accords”
Rabat, 26 - 28 June 2018

The Question of Jerusalem in international law and Member States’ obligations
Israeli non-compliance and civil society action
Paper presented by
Mr. Moshe Amirav
Professor, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Jerusalem – "The March of Follies" 1967-2017
Professor Moshe Amirav*
My Personal "Jerusalem Syndrome"
The 7th of June, 1967, remains fixed in my memory until today. In the midst of the Six Day War I entered the Old City of Jerusalem with my paratrooper brigade. It was for me a dream fulfilled.
As a youngster I had been preoccupied with the dream that one day I would see a unified Jerusalem. I belonged to the Betar Youth Movement which, in Israel of the 1950's and 1960', viewed unification of Jerusalem as its 'banner'. At age 16 I came up with a crazy idea, to steal over the border between Israeli and Jordanian Jerusalem and to blow the shofar near the Wailing Wall, situated at that time in Jordan. On the eve of Yom Kippur, 1962, I went up to Mount Zion, on the Israeli side of the city where I knew my hero, the national poet Uri Zvi Greenberg, would pray every year, facing the Old City. I came to get his blessing for this absurd idea and was very offended when Greenberg shouted at me "Are you crazy? You will be shot dead by the Jordanian Legionnaires before you even pass the border, and your symbolic sacrifice will be in vain. That is not the way to liberate Jerusalem. Israel and its army should liberate our city and it will happen one day, and you, my young friend, you will live to see it, I promise you". I returned home very disappointed. At that time, only a tiny minority of Israelis thought that Israel should take over the Old City, which was in Jordanian hands since 1948.
A few years later, as history would have it, I belonged to the paratrooper unit that entered the Old City on June 7th, 1967. I was wounded that morning, receiving shrapnel to my head, and was evacuated to Hadassah Hospital for surgery. Lying in bed I listened to the radio report describing my paratroopers' battalion reaching the Wailing Wall. Unable to bear the thought of missing this
historic moment, I escaped from the hospital, my head bandaged, and hitchhiked back to the Old City. Within a few hours I was celebrating with my paratrooper friends near the Wailing Wall. I stood there weeping and placed a scrap of paper between the old stones, with a prayer of a single word, "Shalom", Peace. I was sure that this great victory would enable my country to attain its goals, the unification of our capital city and peace with the Arab world. Like most Israelis I was convinced that this dream would come to fruition in a matter of months.
But my dream of Jerusalem's unification and peace for my country was shattered by reality over the course of the next fifty years. In Jerusalem and only in Jerusalem we can identify the pathological phenomenon known as the Jerusalem Syndrome. It's a well known condition whereby some 200 tourists annually develop symptoms of messianic delusion. Disconnected from reality, they believe they have been sent by God to redeem Jerusalem and thereby their own souls. With hindsight, it now appears that I was suffering from a similar delusion. The problem was that I was not alone. In 1967 the entire country felt that way. Fifty years later I can only lament our naiveté. In place of our hope for peace, we are still at war with the Palestinians.
Jerusalem has become the central symbol and main obstacle to peace not only between us and the Palestinians but also a critical issue within the Arab states and, in actuality, the entire Muslim world, who cannot abide the Temple Mount under the Israeli flag.
1987 - A First Israeli-Palestinian Agreement on Jerusalem between Faisel Husseini and Myself Twice in the past, I attempted to find common ground for a solution based on peace between our peoples and agreement on a political solution for the city, along with my Palestinian colleague and friend, Faisel Husseini, the head of the Palestinians and a close associate of Yasser Arafat. In the summer of 1987 I was a member of the Likud Party Central Committee and a close friend to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. My talks with Husseini was the first time ever that an Israeli and a Palestinian on this political level attempted to reach mutual understanding on the city of Jerusalem, and, for that matter, the first time that an Israeli and a Palestinian on this level attempted to find common ground to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
During our meetings we arrived at a mutual agreement based on two capitals in one city. We agreed that the eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem would be Al Quds, the capital of Palestine.
The Old City, which constitutes only 1 square kilometer of the total 130 sq kilometers of
Jerusalem, would be an open city, not divided but managed jointly by Israel and Palestine. The Temple Mount would be without flags and its sovereignty would be for God. This term, sovereignty of God on the Temple Mount, was agreed upon both by myself and Husseini in order to find the solution to the most crucial issue in the Jerusalem dilemma.
In actuality, the Temple Mount had already become symbolic of the clash between Zionism and the Palestinians, from the beginning of the 1930's. The Palestinians adopted this issue from then on as their banner, in order to rally the Arab and Muslim world behind them.
Husseini and I failed to bring Arafat and Shamir to agree not only on the terms for Jerusalem but even to undertake negotiations.
Our secret talks were exposed and Prime Minister Shamir jailed Husseini in December, 1987, leading to the outbreak of the First Intifada. One of the first demands of that intifada was Husseini's release from prison.
In my opinion, the failure of this opportunity to open a peace venue for the Palestinians
instigated the frustration that led them into the intifada that changed the Middle East from that moment on.
Years later, in July 2000, Husseini and I found ourselves, once again, attempting to find common ground for our peoples. This was at the Camp David summit when the three leaders, U.S. President Bill Clinton, Israeli Premier Ehud Barak and Chairman Yasser Arafat, attempted to conclude a peace agreement. At these meetings, Husseini held the Jerusalem portfolio for his people and I held the same portfolio as advisor to Prime Minister Barak. We both brought our mutual ideas for solutions to this conference for what was clearly the most complicated issue, Jerusalem. As had occurred some years earlier, once again we failed to bring our leaders to the kind of agreement the two of us had reached in the course of many years of friendship. At the end of the day, the Camp David Summit in 2000 failed mainly over the issue of Jerusalem.
My Book Jerusalem Syndrome Some years later I wrote my academic book Jerusalem Syndrome: The Palestinian-Israeli Battle for the Holy City, based on years of research. I dedicated the book to the memory of my friend, colleague and comrade in the battle for peace in Jerusalem, Faisel Husseini, who had died a few years earlier.
In my book I analyzed Israeli policy in Jerusalem since 1967, and proved that Israel has actually failed in all its national objectives in regard to Jerusalem, one by one.
Since 1967, resources invested by the Israeli government in unification of Jerusalem have far exceeded those invested in the entire settlement project in the West Bank. Furthermore, Israel has expended more funds and reserves on Jerusalem than on all other national territorial targets, such as population dispersion in the north and south of the country, relatively sparsely populated regions, for example.
The resources mentioned here have been channeled toward the Israeli governments' five national goals to unify Jerusalem, on which I will briefly elaborate. Doc'uments relating to these objectives are presented in greater detail in my book.
The first and most important objective was to achieve international recognition of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. All of the Israeli governments believed that its rule over Jerusalem would achieve legitimacy by establishing facts on the ground, just as Ben Gurion's government did in the 1950's, over territories gained in 1948. The Jerusalem Law passed by the Israeli Knesset in 1980 declared this policy in a formal resolution. Nonetheless, the resolution not only failed to strengthen Israel's hold on "united" Jerusalem, but indeed caused it harm. All twenty four states that had recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital up until this moment, removed their embassies from the city. Today only the United States, recognizes Israel's sovereignty over Jerusalem. Almost fifty years of diplomatic effort has reaped only disappointment and failure.
The second objective of Israeli policy was territorial. Based on the Zionist assumption that settlements can change reality on the ground, in 1967 Israel expanded the city from 37 to 130 square kilometers. With the intention of settling one million Jews in this area and reaching a ninety percent majority of Jews in the city, billions of dollars were spent to settle approximately 300 Jews in "East Jerusalem". The scope of infrastructure created in these new neighborhoods has exceeded the entire infrastructure Israel created for all its development towns since 1948, combined. Nonetheless, today, less than 300,000 Jews live in what is called "East Jerusalem" compared with 400, 000 Palestinians.
Two important decisions made by its governments led to Israel’s failure to actually achieve a large Jewish majority in the city. One was the ill-advised annexation of large chunks of West Bank land in 1967, including twenty-eight villages that today are part of what is called East Jerusalem. The second was the national attempt to extend settlements in the West Bank. The construction of Maale Adumim, Betar Ilit, Givat Zeev, Efrat and other settlements in the West Bank led, in the 1980s and 1990s, to emigration of around 130,000 Jews from Jerusalem to the West Bank. In retrospect, it has become apparent that the enlargement of Jerusalem in 1967 and the decision to build new settlements around Jerusalem, in the territories, were strategically catastrophic for Jerusalem itself. In another fifteen years from now, Jerusalem will lose its Jewish majority, based on the current Jewish and Arab birthrates. In the year 2032 there will be a Palestinian majority in the city.
The third important objective was to strengthen and develop the capital into the economic center of the country. Decision makers, in the euphoric period following the Six Day War, believed Jerusalem could replace Tel Aviv as the economic center. They believed that "within a decade or two Tel Aviv will become a suburb of Greater Jerusalem". Today Jerusalem is the poorest city in Israel.
A fourth objective set by Israeli governments was the “Israelization” of the Palestinians in Jerusalem. Decision-makers believed that the Palestinians in Jerusalem would undergo the same process that Israeli Arabs (Palestinians) underwent in Israel since 1948. At that time, the Israeli government declared the Arab minority left in Israel after the Independence War as "Israelis" and granted them "citizenship". These Palestinians were integrated into Israeli society and are represented in the Israeli parliament. Policymakers hoped to apply this model to the Palestinians in Jerusalem. They offered them citizenship and gave them residential status, but surprisingly, they refused. By choice, some 300,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem are not Israeli citizens. They view themselves as Palestinians and part of the future Palestinian state.
The fifth objective was to separate the issue of the holy places from the Israeli- Palestinian struggle. The problem of the holy sites had always been the most sensitive and difficult to resolve. The Zionist movement has traditionally attempted to separate this issue from other aspects of the conflict. Zionist leader and Israel's first president Chaim Weizmann was known to say, “I would not accept the Old City even if they gave it to me for free". Most leaders of the Zionist Movement starting with Theodor Herzl through David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, preferred that Israel’s capital not be Jerusalem. The reason was and remains until today, the issue of the Temple Mount - Haram al-Sharif - which not only the Palestinians but also all of the Arab states and more than 50 Muslim countries place at the center and focus of their religious aspirations. Jerusalem was and will always be third in importance in Islam, following Mecca and Medina. Following the Six Day War, Israel missed the opportunity to allow internationalization of the holy sites. The most obvious indication of Israel’s failure to disengage the issue of the Temple Mount from the conflict is the fact that, in the course of 30 years of negotiation with the Palestinians, the Temple Mount has transpired into the most important issue and, in essence, the central reason for the failure of these negotiations.
What Can be Our Conclusions from Our Failure to "Unify" Jerusalem
Now, as we stand poised to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Jerusalem’s unification, I can say clearly that, from the standpoint of policymakers, policies and decisions, Jerusalem has failed to achieve all national goals as they were stated since 1967. What can we learn from this? How can we turn Jerusalem from the greatest obstacle to peace between us and the Palestinians, the Arab world and the Muslim countries, into its key? Perhaps now, after we Israelis have attempted almost everything in order to "unify" this city, policymakers will initiate national soul-searching and re-think Jerusalem. Perhaps, by adopting a different and unconventional approach, we can succeed in achieving what we have not achieved until now. Instead of trying to change the nature of Jerusalem and establish more and more facts on the ground thru expansion, we should simply free ourselves from this mindset that, for the last fifty years, has prevented us from 'winning' or 'liberating' or 'uniting' Jerusalem. Perhaps we should accept Jerusalem as it is, a multicultural, binational home to three religions, a concept that has frightened us terribly in the past. Could it be that 5000 year old Jerusalem secretly laughs at us and mocks the new Israelis who seek to turn it into that which it never was nor ever will be? Indeed, perhaps this approach will accomplish more than Israel's anachronistic one. Will we be adversely affected if the Old City of some one square kilometer, less than one percent of the city, becomes an area where Jews, Christians, Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians, are 'partners' rather than 'owners'? Unity instead of division? I can foresee two cities within Jerusalem. The capital of Palestine, Al Quds, fifty square kilometers on the east side of the current city, and the capital of Israel, Jerusalem, sixty square kilometers on the west side. What would happen? Jerusalem would be transformed from the 'problem' to the 'solution'. We would turn Jerusalem into the "great key" not only between us and the Palestinians but between us and the Muslim world. New gates will open before us. The city that has known more wars than any other city in history will become the city of reconciliation and peace, the city of God. It will be as it is called in the Bible, "Ir Shalom" – City of Peace.

*Professor Moshe Amirav teaches at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. For many years he served as deputy to Teddy Kollek, Mayor of Jerusalem. In 2000 he served as advisor to Prime Minister Barak on the issue of Jerusalem, at the Camp David Summit. For more information and lectures of Professor Amirav see YouTube and Wikipedia.


Welcome to the United Nations. It’s your world.


Changing Realities Create Need to Give Jerusalem Priority in Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, Say Speakers at International Conference

RABAT, Morocco, 27 June (United Nations Information Centre) — On the second day of the International Conference on the Question of Jerusalem participants discussed the political status of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the question of Jerusalem in international law and the obligations of Member States.

The Conference is taking place in Rabat, Morocco, from 26 to 28 June under the theme “50 years under occupation and 25 years after the Oslo Agreements”.

Plenary I

ABDALLAH SIAM, Deputy Governor of Jerusalem under Palestinian Authority, said during the day’s first plenary session — on “Political and social status of Palestinians in East Jerusalem today” — that Israeli policies were aimed at pushing Palestinians out of the city in order to impose facts on the ground.  Those policies were based on principles such as strengthening the Jewish character of the city, the growth of Israeli settlements, even inside Palestinian neighbourhoods, and the occupation of Palestinian lands.  Peace and stability would only be possible through the establishment of a Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital, he said, reiterating that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas believes in peace, and is seeking a partner.

LARA FRIEDMAN, Foundation for Middle East Peace, said that President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel marked a radical change in the strategy of the United States.  That decision marked the end of that country’s role as sponsor of the Middle East peace process, she said, adding that the decision was counterproductive because it had generated the opposite effect to what the United States Administration had aimed to achieve.  The President had made a miscalculation in thinking that by changing the policy of the United States he would strengthen a sentiment that Israel had full rights over Jerusalem.  However, that was not true, she said, noting that the President had said that he had removed Jerusalem from the negotiating table and he had ignored the fact that, for all stakeholders, Jerusalem and its future remain an issue.

DANIEL SEIDEMANN, Terrestrial Jerusalem, remarked that the current United States Administration did not understand the realities on the ground yet and that solving the question of Palestine required a viable Palestinian State.  The Administration imagines that, with time, the world would bend and the Palestinians would yield to a fait accompli.  He compared the Israeli occupation to a disease spreading within the body, which was felt today in the form of violations of something sacred to all — Jerusalem.

AMNEH BADRAN, Al Quds University, said that Israel’s policy aimed at pushing the Palestinians out of Jerusalem was an effort to change the city's demographics through land‑grabbing by military force and with the help of laws.  She cited significant data relating to the situation of Palestinians in the city, such as the fact that the percentage of Palestinians residing in Jerusalem was around 37 per cent, of whom almost half could be stripped of their residency permits at any moment.  The Palestinians could resist merely by the act of staying in the city, she said, calling for investment in key sectors such as education, health, and youth programmes as part of a partnership between international donors, governmental and non-governmental actors, to enable Palestinians to remain in Jerusalem.


In the ensuing discussion, speakers from a range of organizations shared their thoughts, with many focusing on the role that parliamentarians could play to support Palestinians in Jerusalem.  One speaker called for taking the initiative to strengthen the ability of Palestinians to resist and remain in the city through innovative methods of confronting the occupation peacefully so as not to give Israel an opportunity to use force.  Some speakers called on parliamentarians to set up initiatives and strategies to exert pressure on Governments while others stressed the importance of providing psychological support to help Palestinians battle depression.

Plenary II

The second plenary session was on the theme “The Question of Jerusalem in International Law and Member States’ Obligations”.

ZIAD ABU ZAYYAD, former Minister for Jerusalem Affairs in the Palestinian Authority, reviewed the various United Nations resolutions on the status of Jerusalem which prohibit any demographic or legal changes in the city.  Jerusalem had an independent international status (resolution 181 of 29 November 1947 established Jerusalem as a corpus separatum under international law), despite all the Israeli efforts aimed at changing that status.  The transfer of the United States Embassy to Jerusalem showed that the country could not be an objective and impartial mediator between the two parties.  He questioned whether the occupation should be deemed to have begun 50 years ago in 1967, and not earlier in 1948.

DIMITRIS BOURIS, Assistant Professor of European External Relations, University of Amsterdam, reviewed the European Union’s policy towards Jerusalem over the decades, emphasizing that, while the bloc remained the largest donor in terms of building Palestinian institutions, the evolution of its policies showed that it should not merely be a “payer, but a player”.  Although only a few of its members had officially recognized the State of Palestine, the European Union position remained wedded to international resolutions and the two-State solution, while some Europeans opposed the United States Administration’s policies, maintaining that Jerusalem should be the capital of two States.

MOSHE AMIRAV, Professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said Jerusalem was everyone’s city and must remain the City of Peace.  He recalled that he had proposed, with the late Faisal Housseini, a “two capitals in one single city solution”, that had been rejected by the then‑Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir.  That had been among the factors that had triggered the first intifada, which had eventually changed the entire situation in the Middle East, he said, stressing that Jerusalem was the cornerstone of the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.  Camp David, as well as the Annapolis negotiations, had collapsed because of Jerusalem, he said, adding that, in his view, Jerusalem should be the first and not the final issue to be discussed in negotiations between the two sides, and that any solution must keep the city open for peace rather than divide it.

MOHAMMAD SHTAYYEH said the problem was that United States presidents minimized the importance of Jerusalem for the Palestinians, and that religious claims should not justify or legitimize the occupation.  The Palestinians were ready and open, but Israel refused to return to the 1967 borders, he said, drawing attention to the fact that Israeli society was increasingly leaning towards the right.  Regarding the European Union, he stressed that the Europeans did not wish to be in control of those files and chose to stay on the margins, even though the region was part of Europe’s security space.  In dealing solely with Israel, the United States used “carrots but no sticks”, he said, noting that Israel had tried to empty Jerusalem of Palestinians.  Even as 130,000 Palestinians had been forced to move out, more than 300,000 Israeli settlers had moved in.  Al-Haram al-Sharif, too, was today considered part of a settlement zone.  The real problem in the occupied territories was not poverty, but refugee camps, he said, emphasizing the need for a clear solution to the refugee issue.  Israel did not want a solution to the conflict, and even though President Abbas had met President Trump four times to date, no peace plan had been unveiled yet.  Based on what Palestinians had learned about the plan from brotherly countries that the United States had approached, the imminent plan would be a tragedy for Palestinians, he said, adding that Palestinians had never refused negotiations, and now they found that there were only “bad ideas” and no real plans.  He reiterated President Abbas’ eight‑point plan to the Security Council calling for an international conference, international protection for civilians and an international mechanism to resolve the conflict, saying the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was open to partnering with all other Palestinian parties provided they accepted the two-State solution, peaceful national resistance, and a single national authority.  It was time for “the birds to break free from the cage”, he said.


MOUNIN YUNNAN, representative of the World Council of Churches, said that unilateral decisions undermined peace and security and solutions could not be imposed by force.  Referring to the status of Jerusalem, he reiterated the World Council of Churches’ rejection of the United States decision.  While considering that Jerusalem could be the capital of both States, he urged the international community to keep the special status of Jerusalem as an open and free city for everyone.  Peace in the Middle East would only be possible with peace in Jerusalem, he said, rejecting the apocalyptic rhetoric of some evangelical churches as not reflective of the position of Christians living in Jerusalem and the region.

RANDA SENIORA, Director, Women's Aid and Coaching Center, said the conflict was not between Palestinians and Israelis, but between a colonizing State and a colonized people which flouted the rights of the Palestinian people.  Israel must abide by international law and international commitments, particularly on human rights, she stressed, while calling upon the European Union not to be a mere “cheque book” and to commit itself to the culture of respect for human rights.

DIAN TRIYANSYAH DJANI, Permanent Representative of Indonesia to the United Nations and Vice‑Chair of the Palestinian Rights Committee, asked why the Europeans did not simply recognize the Palestinian State instead of just providing financial aid.  Concerning the status of Jerusalem, he highlighted Israel’s flagrant violations of Security Council resolutions.  He asked how the problem of the three religions in the Old City could be solved without considering other parts of the city of Jerusalem, concluding that each side posed a problem with its own positions and perspectives.

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine to the United Nations, agreed that evoking Jerusalem struck a chord with everyone — Muslims, Jews and Christians.  As for the European Union, he said it respected Jerusalem’s status and defended United Nations resolutions on the city.  The European Union voted against the policy of colonization and considered it an obstacle to peace, he said, while emphasizing that the Europeans could do better and push for the formation of two States and recognition of the Palestinian State.  Compliance with international law was important, he added.

Mr. ZAYYAD said in response to questions that Zionism had brought religion into the conflict because the Zionist movement had used religion to create a nationality.  Israeli society was today becoming more extremist and pushing Palestinians to adopt the same behaviour.  There was a risk that the continued occupation could push the conflict from being a nationalist struggle into becoming a conflict between two religions, he warned.

Mr. BOURIS said that the European Union did not want to play a leading role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because the peace process was based on United States hegemony.  He wondered about the utility of focusing on international law if it was not respected, and asked why a new situation on the ground could not be created by imposing recognition of the State of Palestine.  He concluded that Europeans were keeping the card of recognition of the Palestinian State to play at the appropriate moment, recalling that the European Union had adopted a strong and firm position with respect to the decision by President Trump to transfer the United States Embassy to Jerusalem.

Mr. AMIRAV emphasized the importance of both sides recognizing their mistakes and drawing the necessary lessons.  Jerusalem was the key to the whole issue, he reiterated, stating that the fear of politicians on either side to tell their people the truth was behind the delays in the peace process.

JOSE DE BRITO CRUZ, Ambassador of Brazil to Morocco, said his country’s foreign policy was based on respect for international law.  Brazil had recognized the State of Palestine and was committed to the establishment of a united and sovereign State with Jerusalem as its capital.  He rejected any unilateral moves that could jeopardize that process, and insisted that the status of Jerusalem should be the subject of an agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis within the framework of the two-State solution along the pre-1967 borders.

ALI GHAITH, a journalist from Jerusalem, said the original mistake had occurred in 1948 with the expulsion of Palestinians.  Palestinians did have influential promoters of ideas, but most of them were languishing in Israeli prisons, he added.

The conference will continue on Thursday, 28 June.

The Jerusalem Paradox
Yossi Beilin
Apr 04, 2003 12:00 AM
"The Palestinian Struggle for Jerusalem" by Moshe Amirav, The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, 80 pages, NIS 30

Dr. Moshe Amirav has come a long way from the days when he was a Likud activist in Jerusalem and held talks with Palestinians on the possibility of coming to a diplomatic agreement, to his tenure as deputy mayor of Jerusalem on behalf of Meretz. But all along his political path, he has invested effort in solving the question of Jerusalem, and has contributed quite a bit to the principles that have in recent years been leading toward an agreed-upon solution.

In the booklet Amirav recently published, he does not offer a new proposal for this serious dispute, but rather deals with a scientific attempt to describe what he presents as a Palestinian achievement: stressing the issue of Jerusalem and even assuming control of it. He tries to explain this Palestinian attempt by a political science approach that relates to the ability of players to turn circumstances into problems and redefine them. He argues that the Palestine Liberation Organization succeeded in making Jerusalem, and especially the Temple Mount, into a key issue on the international agenda and having done this, also succeeded in becoming the exclusive Arab party making a claim on East Jerusalem, with Israel having to come to terms with this.

According to his presentation of history, Jerusalem played a secondary role in the Arab- Israeli conflict. The pragmatic branch of Zionism gave it up as far back as 1937. When the Peele Commission proposed its solution, it resigned itself to the internationalization of Jerusalem as per the Partition Plan and accepted the division of Jerusalem in the War of Independence. Jordan made East Jerusalem into a less important city than the capital, Amman, and after 1967, the Palestinians' struggle was for a Palestinian state and not necessarily Jerusalem. Only later did the PLO quarrel with Jordan over Jerusalem, and following the Arab League's decision on the PLO's exclusive right to represent the Palestinians, Jerusalem became a central issue. When the international community relinquished the internationalization of Jerusalem and after Jordan gave up its demand for sovereignty over the West Bank in 1988, the PLO remained the sole claimant to Jerusalem vis-a-vis Israel.

A dream, shelved
The Palestinian inhabitants of East Jerusalem, whose number today reaches 290,000, have for the most part not become Israeli citizens. They have taken Israeli identity cards, enjoy National Security Institute stipends, pay state and city taxes, have grown from 25 percent of the population of the city in 1967 to 33 percent today, and will be about 40 percent in 2020. Israel, for its part, has increased the area of East Jerusalem from about seven square kilometers to about 70 square kilometers by adding 28 villages to it and has thereby enlarged the number of its Palestinian inhabitants while the Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem have preferred to move to satellite cities like Maaleh Adumim or Givat Ze'ev.

East Jerusalem has never become a part of Jerusalem, and this was manifested especially in the first intifada, during the course of which there was a strike of three years' duration and the dream of a united city was shelved entirely.

The paradox of Jerusalem is that the building of Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem has increased the number of Arab inhabitants of the city, who have returned to it with its economic flourishing, whereas the difficulties that have been piled on the Palestinians in building houses on their land have led to a severe housing shortage and hostility, and have distanced the chance of Jewish-Arab cooperation in the city that Israel so wanted to see unified, but has never been unified.

The Palestinians, led by the late Faisal Husseini, established institutions in Jerusalem in the 1990s. The Orient House, which was opened while Yitzhak Shamir was prime minister, func'tioned as an alternative foreign ministry and city hall, and later Jibril Rajoub's security forces filled the vacuum that had been left behind by the Palestinian police who resigned from the Israel Police, ensuring law and order in neighborhoods that were desperately in need of them.
Talks that were held in the unofficial track prepared the Palestinians for the permanent status talks on Jerusalem, and when negotiations started during Ehud Barak's tenure as prime minister, they were better-prepared than the Israelis and stood up for themselves, demanding a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, sovereignty on the Temple Mount and a recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and alternative land in exchange for the area that Israel would annex.

These demands were not answered at Camp David and led to the collapse of the summit, whereas the Clinton plan answered their demands to a large extent and therefore the Palestinians did not reject it outright.

According to Amirav, the Palestinian stance on the issue of the Temple Mount grew tougher and opposition was expressed to its internationalization because Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat realized that a small and impoverished Palestinian state would not interest the world, whereas sovereignty over a Muslim holy place would keep it and its people at the center of things.

Everyone wins
The facts that Amirav presents in his book are important and interesting, but it is doubtful that the model he employs is what explains how things developed on the way to the Palestinian monopoly on the Arab claim to East Jerusalem. The problem of Jerusalem was indeed central to the Zionist movement, and the willingness to internationalize the city was the result of there being no alternative, in the hope that in the future, circumstances would change. It is no accident that for years the Labor Party preferred the Palestinian-Jordanian framework to a Palestinian state; one of the reasons for this was the realization that a Palestinian state would want to see East Jerusalem as its capital, whereas Jordan has a capital on the eastern side of the Jordan River.
The real story is the way the PLO has replaced Jordan as the side that is claiming the West Bank as its own, and this has occurred primarily because the population of the West Bank (and the Gaza Strip) is Palestinian, and it has preferred a Palestinian leadership to a Jordanian leadership that neglected it between 1948 and 1967. Due to the preference of the local population along with international activity and the use of violence that increased international awareness of the PLO, the Arab world preferred this organization to Jordan as the representative of the Palestinians in 1974, and as having naturally become the claimant to the West Bank after Jordan relinquished it in 1988.

Those who read Amirav's book might think that had Israel behaved differently, it could have achieved more in the matter of Jerusalem than it had been offered in the Clinton plan. I permit myself to disagree with this. Jerusalem is the unrecognized capital of Israel to this day. Only a few countries recognize West Jerusalem as our legal capital, and there is no foreign country that recognizes our sovereignty in the eastern part of the city. A situation in which Jerusalem wins recognition as the capital of Israel, including its western part, the Israeli neighborhoods that have been erected in East Jerusalem, the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall, will be a huge achievement for Israel and the realization of its true interest.

The Palestinian achievement does not come at Israel's expense. This is a situation in which everyone wins, while Israel is released from governing 220,000 Palestinians who do not want it, in its capital. Paradoxically, the Palestinian struggle for Jerusalem leads to the true conjunction of the interests of the two peoples.

Yossi Beilin was a formulator of the Beilin-Abu Mazen plan for solving the problem of Jerusalem.


Barak Began Referring to the Holy of Holies'

In early September 2000, about two months after Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat returned empty-handed from the failed summit at Camp David, a series of clandestine contacts was held in Jerusalem between Israelis and Palestinians.

Aryeh Dayan Dec 09, 2002 12:00 AM

In early September 2000, about two months after Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat returned empty-handed from the failed summit at Camp David, a series of clandestine contacts was held in Jerusalem between Israelis and Palestinians. Most of the meetings took place in an isolated private home in the western Jerusalem suburb of Ein Karem, and were meant to find a formula that would resolve the harsh dispute that broke out at the summit around the future of the Temple Mount.

The talks were held at the home of Dr. Moshe Amirav, the man who was appointed the day after the Camp David debacle as the prime minister's adviser on the issue of a permanent settlement in Jerusalem. He continued to serve in this capacity through the Taba talks, and until Barak left the Prime Minister's Office. Seated alongside side Amirav at some of the conversations was Danny Yatom, who headed the political-security staff at the Prime Minister's Office at the time. In these conversations, the Palestinians were represented by the late Faisal Husseini, who headed the Palestinian negotiating team on Jerusalem.

The dispute over the Temple Mount had nothing to do with practical arrangements that would be implemented there. Both the Palestinians and the Israelis agreed to leave intact the arrangements that had been in place since the Six-Day War, in accordance with which the site is administered by the Muslim Waqf [Moslem religious trust] without Israeli intervention.

The crux of the dispute centered on sovereignty, and nothing else. While Arafat demanded that the entire Temple Mount - Haram al-Sharif in the Arab terminology - would be under full and exclusive sovereignty of the Palestinians, Barak demanded that partial sovereignty over the site - which, to the disbelief of several of his colleagues in the Israeli delegation, he suddenly began to call "The Holy of Holies" - would remain in Israel's possession.

Amirav and Husseini, whose Ein Karem conversations took place with Barak and Arafat's knowledge, worked out a formula that both men believed would be able to circumvent this difference of opinion. According to the proposal they drafted, the United Nations would establish a "commonwealth of states," in whose hands the Temple Mount would be entrusted. This commonwealth of nations would have 11 member states: the five permanent members of the UN Security Council; Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian state that would be established as part of the peace treaty, and Israel. Ongoing administration of the Mount, stated the doc'ument, would remain in the Waqf's domain, and Yasser Arafat "could be the guardian of the sites holy to Islam."

The proposal, described by Amirav in a recently published booklet ("The Palestinian Struggle for Jerusalem," published by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies), was welcomed by the United States and Egypt after it was presented for study to Barak and Arafat. Barak said that he found it acceptable, but assessed that Arafat would reject it.

"Husseini came back from his meeting with Arafat bearing a negative response," writes Amirav. "When I asked what he was basing his optimism on when he drafted the proposal together with me, he answered that it was a proposal to which Arafat had already agreed prior to Camp David." "At the end of that month," Amirav writes on the same page, "the visit to the Temple Mount by opposition head Ariel Sharon took place. The visit was held with the approval of the government of Israel, in spite of Arafat and Husseini's request that the government prevent it ...the Temple Mount once again became the focal point for conflagration."

Even Begin

The book by Amirav, who teaches public policy at Haifa University and at Beit Berl Teachers Training College, mainly describes the strategies that enabled Palestinians to become the main player in the struggle over the future of Jerusalem. The book's final two chapters shed new and interesting light on the manner in which negotiations on Jerusalem were held at the Camp David summit and during the critical period between it and the Taba talks.

His main argument is that in the future, the Temple Mount will be the only Jerusalem issue on which agreement has not been reached and that for all of the other subjects on the table (refugees, borders, settlements and security arrangements), agreement was within reach. The Temple Mount, claims Amirav, is what prevented the sides from reaching agreement.

"The Camp David summit," explains Amirav in conversation with Ha'aretz, "became a 'Jerusalem summit,' perhaps even a 'Temple Mount summit.'" The three leaders who took part - Barak, Arafat and their host, U.S. President Bill Clinton - devoted, claims Amirav, "hundreds of hours" to discussions on Jerusalem in general and the Temple Mount in particular. "It may be hard to believe," says Amirav, "but Clinton himself spent hours poring over maps with Barak and Arafat.

It was Arafat's and Barak's stubborn insistence on sovereignty that prevented an agreement. Arafat insisted on full and exclusive Palestinian sovereignty "both because he wanted to go down in history as having liberated the Temple Mount and because he wanted the Temple Mount to provide a pan-Muslim counterweight to the little State of Palestine."

Barak insisted on it "because he wanted to go down in history as having achieved for Israel that which it does not now have - sovereignty over part of the Temple Mount." 

Amirav is convinced that in so doing, both Barak and Arafat committed grave errors. Nevertheless, he finds it easier to understand Arafat's position than Barak's. "Arafat wanted to be Saladin and Barak wanted to be Ben-Gurion," says Amirav. "What Barak didn't understand is that Ben-Gurion actually did everything he could to be rid of the Temple Mount. From Herzl on down, including Ussishkin and Chaim Weizmann, Ben-Gurion, Moshe Dayan and Menachem Begin, all of the leaders of Zionism realized that the Temple Mount was actually a thorn in the side of the Zionist movement. The first Zionist leader to insist on the Temple Mount, interestingly, was Ehud Barak. He referred to the 'Holy of Holies,' a term that denotes the four square meters which the High Priest would enter on Yom Kippur. Barak applied this term to the entire plaza, including the mosques, and brought an end to the whole negotiations over this issue." Nevertheless, based on Amirav's description, it seems that Barak had expressed his willingness to make do with the American proposal, which designated to Israel subterranean sovereignty underneath the mosque plaza.

Based on what Amirav writes, as well as a conversation with Ha'aretz, it seems as if the Israeli delegation to Camp David prepared for the negotiations on Jerusalem in an utterly negligent and ineffective manner. "Barak arrived in Camp David without having done any preparation for the subject," he says. No preparatory work was done in advance of the negotiations on Jerusalem, reports Amirav, because Barak was afraid - given the fragile status of the coalition - of a leak that would let the public know that he was planning to discuss a partition of Jerusalem. "In the period leading up to Camp David," Amirav recalls, "Shlomo Ben-Ami carried on secret negotiations with the Palestinians in Stockholm. I met with him in Jerusalem between his two sorties to Stockholm, and heard him say that 'everything was fine' - the Palestinians were showing flexibility and it would be possible to reach an agreement with them on Jerusalem. I asked him what would be the lines of the settlement in Jerusalem, and Shlomo replied that he did not know, because Barak had instructed him not to discuss Jerusalem. 'Ehud wanted to handle the Jerusalem file himself,' Ben-Ami explained to me. I didn't like this answer, so I went to Danny Yatom. Yatom answered me in more or less the same vein. 'Trust Ehud,' he told me. "Everything will be okay.'"

As opposed to the Israeli delegation, the Palestinian delegation arrived in Camp David armed with abundant information, including detailed background material and a well-formulated position. The Palestinian position included, says Amirav, "a territorial element" and "a historic element." In the territorial circle, writes Amirav, the Palestinians demanded to divide sovereignty over the city according to the 1967 lines, although they expressed a readiness to leave under Israeli sovereignty all of the Jewish neighborhoods ("settlements" in the Palestinian parlance) that were built in the city beyond the Green Line. "Essentially," Amirav declares, "in so doing the Palestinians were conceding one-third of the territory of eastern Jerusalem." In the Old City they were willing to leave Israel with sovereignty over the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall.

In the historic realm, Amirav argues, the Palestinians decided to forfeit their demand to get back the 2,000 homes abandoned by Palestinians in the western part of the city in 1948, and suffice with financial compensation and a demand "to enable several owners of uninhabited houses, for instance in Lifta, to return and live in them."

Their position on the Temple Mount was close to that which would be formulated two months later in the Amirav-Husseini doc'ument. "The Palestinians," writes Amirav, "agreed to concede exclusive sovereignty (on the Temple Mount) and replace it with joint sovereignty arrangements with the Islamic states, the Arab League and even international bodies." But as soon as the talks at Camp David began, Arafat abandoned this position and in its place issued a rigid, uncompromising demand to receive full sovereignty over the site. Amirav feels the shift had to do with the United States' aligning itself with Barak, who demanded that part of the compound be under Israeli sovereignty. "The U.S.'s willingness to enable Israel partial sovereignty on the Mount or under the mosques," writes Amirav, " seemed (to Arafat) as its cooption to the Israeli scheme to minimize the status of the Palestinians in the mosques. There were even those who viewed it as an opening to the possibility that the Israelis might someday demand to build the Temple next to the mosques or even in their place."

"The day that Clinton issued his proposal, according to which the Palestinians would have sovereignty over the mosque plaza and Israel would have sovereignty over the territory underneath the plaza," Amirav told Ha'aretz, "Arafat was boiling mad, really went nuts. He started to yell at Clinton, and asked him if he would ever agree for someone else to be sovereign over territory beneath the streets of Washington."

"Barak," continues Amirav, "had thought that if he were generous toward the Palestinians on all of the issues, and left discussion of Jerusalem for the end, then the Palestinians would become magnanimous toward him on the issue of Jerusalem. In actuality, the exact opposite took place. On the first day of the summit, the Palestinians demanded that Jerusalem be discussed. Discussion of Jerusalem began on the third day, and became the core issue of the summit." In the course of the summit Barak - who according to Amirav had at first been prepared to concede only the peripheral Arab neighborhoods of the city (in the northern sector) - also agreed to give up the inner-city neighborhoods (Sheikh Jarah, Wadi Joz, Salah a-Din, A-Tur, Silwan, Abu Tor and others) as well as the Muslim Quarter and Christian Quarter of the Old City. Ultimately, when it came time to discuss the Temple Mount, he decided to blow up the entire negotiations over this issue.

Amirav feels that in so doing, Barak committed "a fatal error," both because Israel did not in his opinion need the Temple Mount and because the agreement that was being reached on Jerusalem would have granted Israel "most formidable achievements": international recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel; Palestinian acceptance of Israeli sovereignty over the neighborhoods built after 1967, on one-third of the territory of eastern Jerusalem; and leaving the entire city "open and undivided, physically speaking."

But Barak wanted to go down in Jewish history as the man who gave Israel sovereignty, if only partial, over the Temple Mount. "He simply wanted to achieve one too many achievements, and crashed his head up against the wall. After Camp David, Barak and Ben-Ami suddenly began claiming that when the Palestinians deny the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, it is as if they are denying the Jewish connection to all of the Land of Israel, including Haifa and Tel Aviv."

Moshe Amirav calls this a "groundless assertion." He says in exchange for conceding the Temple Mount, Israel could have received, the recognition of the entire world - including the Arab and Muslim world - both of its sovereign existence and Jerusalem as its capital. Sooner or later, he says, Israel will be forced to "get rid of the Temple Mount." He proposes that Israel "give the Temple Mount as a gift, not to Arafat, but to the leaders of the countries of Islam." If it does so, he believes that Israel will receive the recognition of the entire Muslim world.

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