The Palestine-Israel Journal is a quarterly of MIDDLE EAST PUBLICATIONS, a registered non-profit organization (No. 58-023862-4).
Bookmark and Share















Editorial Board

Hisham Awartani

Danny Rubinstein

Sam'an Khoury

Boaz Evron

Walid Salem

Ari Rath

Zahra Khalidi

Daniel Bar-Tal

Ammar AbuZayyad

Galit Hasan-Rokem

Khaled Abu Aker

Galia Golan

Nazmi Ju'beh

Gershon Baskin

Edy Kaufman

Ata Qaymari

Benjamin Pogrund

Nafez Nazzal

Simcha Bahiri

Nadia Naser-Najjab

Dan Jacobson

Jumana Jaouni

Dan Leon

Anat Cygielman

Khuloud Khayyat Dajani

Izhak Schnell



Vol.21 No.4, 2016 / Future Visions for Jerusalem

Focus

Future Scenarios for the Old City of Jerusalem

     by Rami Nasrallah

Among possible future scenarios for the future of the Old City, some predict escalating conflict; some project passivity on one or both sides, leading to deterioration in the realities of the Old City; and others offer the prospect of an international regime — with varying forms of interaction between it and the two parties.

An effort to find a solution formula that does not favor the Israelibiased scenario currently imposed on the city in general, and the Old City in particular, is complicated. Does the reality imposed by Israel constitute a requirement or precondition from which negotiations start? So far, the Jewish settlements inside East Jerusalem and within its surroundings were considered as irreversible “facts on the ground” and the Clinton Parameters criteria dealt with them according to this principle. The Israeli-imposed “facts on the ground” and the practices being witnessed by the city, whether originating directly from the state or from the settler groups that have official support, is expected to lead to the implementation of the worst-case scenario — the Hebron model.

The Hebron Model Applied to Jerusalem: Worst-Case Scenario

Under this scenario, the extremist Jewish settlers intensify their attempts to increase their presence in the residential areas in the Muslim and Christian Quarters of the Old City. They practice a provocative policy in order to disturb Palestinian neighbors by expanding settlement activities and offering diverse services and facilities for this purpose, including security procedures to protect the settlers, which restricts the movement and the daily lives of Palestinians. As a result, some Palestinians emigrate outside the boundaries of the Old City.

The Israeli environment protection authority confiscates Palestinian lands in the areas surrounding the Old City to enforce a plan for nine public parks. It delegates de facto control of the parks to extremist settlers associations like the City of David project, who are allowed to collect entry fees and are given an annual governmental budget to support the management of archeological sites in the parks. It is expected that these planned parks around the historical wall on its southern and eastern perimeters will be promoted by the settlers groups as part of the packages of the tours that are offered from (Jewish) West Jerusalem. The parks will constitute an isolated region cut off from the Palestinian urban neighborhoods of the Old City to avoid any spatial or functional contact between them.

The power of the extremist Jewish groups who are trying to revive the idea of reconstructing the Jewish Temple and replacing the mosques of al-Haram al-Sharif is increasing. They took over buildings in the area surrounding the Western Wall of al-Haram al-Sharif and transform them into religious schools and synagogues. An Israeli Supreme Court decision allows selected individual Jews the right to pray in al-Haram al-Sharif; this “legal” opening soon evolves to allow collective, group prayers, and in turn paves the way for the use of this space for the purposes of the Temple construction.

This new reality increases the tension between Muslim worshipers and Jewish groups. Conflicts break out. The Israeli police protect the Jewish activities and exclude Muslims and forbid them to pray for certain periods. The matter generates violence and incites the Arab and Islamic world against Israel. The Arab and Muslim regimes are accused by their people of not protecting Muslims and their holy shrines.

The arousal of the heated religious sentiments, and the incapacity of the Arab and Muslim governments to confront the Israelis about their actions, amplify and convert the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a religious conflict which is not limited to Palestinians and Arabs.

Excavations around and underneath al-Haram al-Sharif continues unabated. Palestinians consider them as the beginning of a Jewish domination over the site and as a grant of legitimacy for the division of al-Haram al-Sharif between Muslims and Jews, similar to the protocol for the al-Haram al-Ibrahimi al-Sharif in Hebron. The commercial activity in the Old City declines considerably due to the escalation of the conflict and heightened Israeli security procedures. This in turn increases the undeclared displacement process of Palestinians from the Old City.

According to the Israelis, this scenario does not hinder the peace process since the Palestinian neighborhoods can have their functions and daily responsibilities controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA), and negotiations will be made about the status of the Old City in a subsequent phase.

A rapid regression of affairs accompanies the escalation of the conflict in the Old City reduces the opportunities of reaching a comprehensive peace treaty between Palestinians and Israelis and between Israel and Islamic Arab states.

This scenario, resulting from the deterioration of the current situation and the impossibility of erasing the Muslim and Christian Arab identity of the Old City and its surroundings, constitutes the onset of a total confrontation leading to wars and to a long-term conflict between Israel and many Arab and Muslim nations.

Options and Alternatives of Geopolitical Scenarios for the Future of Jerusalem

The above mentioned worst case scenario highlights the seriousness of the current situation and stress the necessity of seeking new options and alternatives for a geopolitical solution for the future of Jerusalem. A research team of the International Peace and Cooperation Center (IPCC) has identified five additional scenarios that could develop.

    * International management and sovereignty of the Old City within a special system, i.e., limiting the 1947 United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 calling for an international special regime to the Old City only. This option, regardless of the extent of its enforceability, is not viewed as a permanent solution but rather an interim arrangement. The participation of the parties in the final arrangements for sovereignty and management of the Old City remains necessary.
    * A Palestinian-Israeli joint sovereignty over the entire Old City, with or without defining the sovereignty powers zones of each party. This option requires a high level of cooperation between the conflict parties in order to define the form of management that will ensure services to the Old City residents and its visitors.
    * A division of the sovereignty by which the Old City shall be totally under the Palestinian sovereignty, except for the Jewish Quarter. One of the expected difficulties in this arrangement is sovereignty over the Armenian Quarter, which Israel has wanted to preserve (according to their position at Camp David) to guarantee the geographic continuity between West Jerusalem and the Jewish Quarter. In addition, the Israeli definition of the Old Jerusalem is not restricted to inside the ancient walls. Israel wishes in any future solution to preserve its sovereignty over several regions surrounding the Old City, namely the City of David in Silwan and the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives.
    * A non-sovereign region in which there is no display of any sovereign symbol from any party in the Old City. Under this scenario the Old City would be administrated by both parties, with or without the participation of international parties.
    * Israeli sovereignty over the Old City and its immediate surroundings in a comprehensive way and the reduction of the Palestinian presence. Recently, more and more Israeli voices have called for the preservation of the Old City and the elimination of the Palestinian demographic concentration.

The general description of these scenarios only identifies the possible realities that could flow from the current conditions of Jerusalem; further analysis is required to identify their spatial and functional dimensions and effects. In the following paragraphs IPCC examines the options of dealing with the current situation with two assumptions: a two-state solution has been agreed upon and an international body oversees the Old City. The scenarios depict three situations of what most likely would develop under those assumptions:

    * Spiraling Tensions — an Old City that spins out of control under an international administration that is focused on broad concerns;
    * Social Withdrawal — Palestinians remain diffident in the face of an Old City international administration that ignores the material needs of the Palestinians while focusing on security matters and preserving the religious status quo; and
    * Successful Engagement — an Old City that is revived by an energetic international commitment to success.

Spiraling Tensions Scenario: Neglect, Confrontation, Violence

The Scene on the Ground

There is no improvement in the economic or social conditions in the Old City, and the services provided remain very substandard, especially in the Muslim Quarter.

There is no improvement in the economic or social conditions in the Old City, and the services provided remain very substandard, especially in the Muslim Quarter.

The only public space for the Muslims continues to be the Haram ash-Sharif (Holy Mosque). There, the public discourse denounces non- Muslim, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim regimes that are loyal to the West. The Palestinians come to consider the international regime as the new Crusaders working against the Arab Muslims for the advantage of Israel.

National tensions increase on both sides; the provocation of extremist Jewish settler groups visiting the al-Haram al-Sharif and the Muslim Quarter becomes a major source of unrest and violent confrontation.

Soon, the unrest spreads beyond the city walls. The Palestinian government (in the West Bank and Gaza) and Palestinian citizens of Israel demonstrate against Jewish settler activities in the Old City and complain that the international regime is not intervening to stop the provocation and attacks by the Jewish settlers. The international administration is widely viewed by the Palestinians as unfairly favoring the Jewish side. Such steps would provoke violent attacks against Israelis, tourists, and representatives of the international administration.

Israel issues an ultimatum to the international regime to stop the attacks against Israeli civilians, Israeli security forces enter the Old City and kill and arrest Palestinians for their actions against Israelis.

The security situation forces the international parties to bar all outsiders from entering the Old City. This marks the beginning of a general escalation of the conflict. Mass demonstrations breakout in many Arab and Muslim capitals against Israel and the international regime.

A Society in Withdrawal Scenario

The Scene on the Ground

The passivity of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation control continues to characterize their relationship with the new international regime. They refuse to deal with the administration in an open way, limiting their interaction mainly to registering as Old City residents and paying taxes. Civil society languishes, while the international administration focuses on security and preserving the religious status quo.

The individualistic, every-man-for-himself survival mentality persists and the harsh socioeconomic conditions continue for the majority of the population of the Old City. Huge gaps develop between Old City Palestinians and the West Bankers: the latter benefit immensely from the peace that came with statehood, but this prosperity has passed the Old City Palestinian quarters by.

The lack of employment within the Old City and the limited economic benefits and opportunities force Palestinians to emigrate to other parts of East Jerusalem and to cities of the West Bank. Poverty in the Old City increases in contrast to the prosperity outside the walls.

For the Israelis, the fact that the international administration is managing the issue of security makes the regime more accepted. The population in the Jewish Quarter witnesses a major increase in real estate values: only rich religious Jews from the Diaspora can afford to buy homes in the Jewish Quarter.

Initially, the Old City draws the attention of international organizations. But the lack of space and bad housing conditions discourages them, and most locate themselves outside the Old City walls.

The Palestinian residents of the Old City become increasingly isolated. The ties between them and the rest of the city and the West Bank are weakened due to the widening socioeconomic gap between them. And there is a low level of interaction between the Old City and the international administration and the organizations that support the peace transformation.

Social problems of drug addiction, crime and violence among families increase and become among the highest in the region.

The informal traditional customary laws are the only rules applied in the conduct of Old City Palestinian affairs; the local leadership is organized by families and their interaction with their surroundings is also dictated by family and clan affiliation.

Friction and tension at national and religious events is a common issue. But this tension is manageable and violence remains at a low level — due to the international administration’s preoccupation with security and the maintenance of the religious status quo.

Successful Engagement Scenario: Cooperation and Integration

The scene on the ground

The international regime considers the social fabric of the Old City as a major venue for action. They identify and interact with the civil organizations and with the informal leadership of the community. They develop sensitivities to the structure of the society, the needs of the people and the urban needs of the community.

The administration approaches urban functions not merely as vehicles for the provision of services but as mechanisms to improve the quality of life and to enhance their relationship with the public spaces and community institutions. Urban functions are seen as a means of supporting the identity and the image of a peaceful Jerusalem.

The diversity present in the Israeli society at large begins to influence the functions and the type of population living in and interacting with the Old City. The power of the fanatic religious and national groups has significantly diminished and they no longer dominate the Jewish Quarter or the Old City landscape and urban fabric.

In the Palestinian society of the Old City, a formal social structure emerges (similar to the trends occurring in Palestinian society as a whole).

Economic and social mobility facilitate the transformation from traditional informal conservative social structures to a community with a vibrant and organized civil society.

Planning, renovation and excavations are conducted under the full authority of the international special regime and according to UNESCO protocols, with representation of the national and local governments from both sides.

A sense of ownership (facilitated by clear definitions of private, public and semi-public spaces) and of citizenship (Palestinian citizens with special status under the international administration) is awakened within the Old City’s Palestinian residents and reduces tensions and creates a communal sense and an integrative cooperative mode with the international regime and its mechanisms. The international community registers ownership of property and designates the use of the properties to protect the rights of the owners and the community.

Interaction and integration among and between the communities evolves through a positive process and the Old City becomes a real living museum. The international administration policies succeed in creating a positive interaction and a different type of social fabric, one that reflects the new image of Jerusalem as a city of both national and global value.

It becomes a model of peace and positive interaction between different cultures and religions. It assumes a role of global importance, is recognized as a city of prosperity and becomes a model of inspiration and the only model of ethno-national and global peace.

Conclusion

The current Israeli approach to encroachment and domination of the Old City and its “Holy Basin” surroundings differs from the manner in which they have dealt with East Jerusalem neighborhoods outside the ancient walls. There they sought to consolidate certain neighborhoods and to divide others on demographic grounds in order to capitalize on the Clintonian principle: “Where there are Israelis belongs to Israel; where there are Palestinians belongs to the Palestinians.” In contrast, in the Old City the Israelis have had an unprecedented interest in centralization. They seek to make the ancient center the heart of the Israeli state and the Jewish people. This goal has been positioned by numerous Israeli governments, including the current administration, as beyond compromise. However, in order to move forward from this stalemate and the inherent risks of the worst case scenario, it is necessary to seek new ideas that draw concessions from both parties. Of the many scenarios reviewed in this chapter, the one that proffers the greatest progress embraces Israeli and Palestinian cooperation and integration under an international regime.








 © 2012 Palestine-Israel Journal. All Rights Reserved. Articles, excerpts, and translations may not be reproduced in any form without written permission.
The Palestine-Israel Journal gratefully acknowledges the support of UNESCO for the initial development of the website.
The Palestine-Israel Journal gratefully acknowledges the support of the European Union for the maintenance and development
of the website.