Jerusalem

Jerusalem

by

Howard Adelman

From my recent blogs, the two issues that seemed to arouse some need for further discussion were the conclusion about Jerusalem remaining the key obstacle to peace and the implication that the United States and Israel would be at odds over negotiating with a possibly reunited Palestinian entity involving Hamas as well as Fatah. In this morning’s blog I will focus on Jerusalem and, more particularly, on a report on the conference, “The Road to Jerusalem” that took place from Monday to Wednesday of this week in Amman, Jordan.

The conference was opened by HRH Prince Ghazi Bin Mohammad, Jordan’s King Abdullah II’s Advisor for Religious and Cultural Affairs. It was not just a conference of Muslims. Christian clerics and scholars as well as politicians from across the Arab world were in attendance. Secondly, the premise of the conference was that Jerusalem was an occupied city. Given that it was occupied, how were both Muslims and Christians to deal with their holy sites when the occupying and controlling authority was neither Muslim nor Christian. The conference was organized by the World Islamic Sciences and Education (WISE) University, the Lower House Palestine Committee and the Muslim World League, a clear indication that the dominant instigation for the conference was a Muslim one. Christians had a token role.

WISE, for example, located in Amman, was only established four years ago. Its purpose from the beginning was primarily political rather than educational since it was established to be the home of the Arabic League and National Identity Conference. The university has nine faculties including Theology, Sharia Law, Humanities and Education, Traditional Islamic Art and Architecture, Information Technology, Business and Finance, Basic Sciences, A Graduate Faculty and an Institute for Quranic Studies and Recitation complete the list. It is, in other words, a traditional religious-based university. Thus, the Faculty of Theology offers a PhD in Faith and Islamic Philosophy as well as bachelors and graduate degrees in “scientific interpretation” of religious texts and ritual. In contrast, its Faculty of Arts and Education only offers a bachelors degree majoring in either English literature or Education. There are no courses in social sciences or history. The applied professional fields of study – information technology and business and finance – are concerned with business management and accounting as well as information systems and technology. The Faculty of Basic Sciences has a program in “Islamic Sciences” not chemistry, physics, etc. It also has a department of English, finance and education. This is not your typical model of a western university.

The focus of the conference was the religious significance of Al Aqsa Mosque as well as other Muslim – and Christians – sites in Jerusalem. Given the special custodial role of King Abdullah II for the Al Asque Mosque, the issue was how “the Arab and Muslim worlds and the international community can come to the aid of the occupied city.” The assumption was that aid was desperately needed because of “Israeli arrogance and violations against the Palestinians in the West Bank” as well as to thwart Israeli schemes vis a vis Islamic holy sites, in particular the expenditure of $4 billion dollars by the Israeli occupation on the Judaization of Jerusalem. The clear thrust of the conference was to document the central importance of Jerusalem and its holy sites in the history of Islam. The explicit goal was to preserve the Arab identity of the “holy city”. There was absolutely no indication that at least 40% of the Jews in Israel came from the Arab world.

Within that core focus was the central theme – how to protect the Haram al-Sharif, the site of the Al-Asqua Mosque and the Dome on the Rock given that Article 9 of the 1994 Jordan-Israeli Peace Agreement assigned Jordan that prime responsibility, an assignment confirmed by an agreement signed between King Abdullah II and Mahmoud Abbas on behalf of the Palestinian Authority in March 2013. What is also clear is that this new focus on Haram al Sharif is also fueled by Jewish religious extremist rejection of the Muslim control over the Temple Mount. As stated in the conference, Israel traditionally had respected Islamic control and had agreed that the site was to be protected by unarmed guards paid for by the Jordanian government. However, given Israeli control of the one gate, the Mughrabi Gate, in order to allow access to the Western Wall, unauthorized visits of militant Jews using that gate have significantly increased to the  Haram al-Sharif.

A central theological issue was whether visits to Jerusalem by non-Palestinians were a) acceptable and b) to be encouraged, given that the sites were under the ultimate control of the Israeli authorities. Abbas and Mohammed Hussein, the Mufti of Jerusalem, were promoting such visits. Yehiya Soud, a Palestinian-Jordanian firebrand, recounted how, in spite of his Jordanian diplomatic passport, he was held up for five hours at the king Hussein Bridge before allowed entry. Given an Egyptian theological ruling, Muslims from Turkey, Indonesia and Jordan, countries who recognized Israel and whose passports would allow them to visit, were to be encouraged to visit Haram al-Sharif, but this was a ruling hotly disputed by Islamic scholars from Qatar, Yemen and Morocco who held that, while the holy sites were under Israeli – read Jewish – control, such visits only legitimized Israeli occupation. Further, the Arab Peace Initiative of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation prohibits normalization with Israel until Israel withdraws from Arab areas occupied in 1967. Yusuf Qaradawi, a prominent Egyptian cleric at odds with other Egyptian policies, had issued a fatwa against such visits. However, the trend to not recognize such visits and to view them as beneficial for the fight for Islamic control of the holy city was viewed as on the upswing. In parallel with the conference, Abbas I Ramallah pledged $1million towards an endowment to secure Muslim control of the holy city.

Abbas won. The majority of Islamic scholars in attendance reversed past practice and supported visits by Muslims in addition to Palestinians to Haram al-Sharif. This can be read in two different ways – as progress towards recognition of Israeli de facto control and sovereignty and as a source of further disruption and controversy for Israel as Islamic militants from Egypt or Turkey take to seeking access in large numbers. On the one hand, Islamic tourism could be fostered which could bring about greater understanding even if that was not the motive. On the other hand, the new move could be a source of new tensions

The situation is further complicated by corresponding shifts in attitudes and approaches by religious Jews. Traditionally, since 1967 the two chief Israeli rabbis, both Ashkenazi and Sephardi, have concurred and made visits to the Temple Mount off limits for devout Jews lest they trod on what was the Jewish temple. However, militant religious Jews have begun to challenge that ruling. In fact, recently right wing Israelis have begun visiting the area and provoking controversy by seeking to pray on the site. Muslims see this as an initiative to blow up the site – there have been incidents of such efforts in the past – in order to rebuild the Temple.

With the possible increase in both the numbers of Muslims and religious Jews visiting the Islamic holiest site in Jerusalem, the potential for clashes also increases enormously. But the way to sort out the issue of sovereignty also becomes more complicated as emotions get roused on both sides over incidents that are bound to take place. The more Jerusalem becomes the final redoubt in the negotiations between Israel and Palestine, the more the Old City is in danger of serving as a tinder box. The diplomatic issue exacerbates the concern, the concern exacerbates the security issue from both sides and the security issues compound the difficulties in resolving the conflict over Jerusalem and endangers the Israeli traditional stance of acknowledging Islamic religious control while insisting on sovereign control. Thus does the dialectic dance of extremism undermine the search for stability of moderates.

As Ezekial describes it, the road from Babylon split in two, one road going to Amman (then Rabbah in Ammon),  the other to Jerusalem then the capital city of Judah. Islam has always wanted to make the road to Jerusalem the ultimate destiny on that route as a path of Islamic religious expression. Jews have always recited, “Next Year in Jerusalem” and regarded Jerusalem as their one and only holy city, though religious Jews have other holy sites. Ezekial prophesied that the Babylonian king would set Jerusalem as his goal and thereby threaten Jerusalem as a Jewish city. Plus ça change, plus la même chose.

And for Christians and Messianic Jews, “Remove the turban, and take off the crown; things shall not remain as they are; exalt that which is low, and abase that which is high. A ruin, ruin ruin will I make it; there shall not be even a trace of it until he comes whose right it is; and to him I will give it.”

In such a controversial historical, religious and political quagmire, can anyone expect that proposals for international sovereignty over the city have any more headway and strength than when proposed in 1947. When the UN advance guard came to the city to take over administrative control in 1948, they were totally ignored as irrelevant.

Though I now see that all other aspects of the dispute are in principle resolvable – water, refugee return, security, even borders except for Jerusalem, I have no idea on how to resolve the Jerusalem issue except by divided authority. I think international authority – though international involvement in an advisory or observer role would be welcome – is not acceptable to either side. I do not even think joint control is possible. There will have to be continued divided authority, but Israel remaining the default sovereign control remains unacceptable to both Abbas and Muslims.

So that is why there will be no formal deal in the near future.

The greatest potential for violence has resided in Jewish zealots who are determined to pray on the Temple Mount under the guidance and incitement of the Temple Mount Faithful in defiance of Israeli political prudential decisions. On 7 December 2000, the al Aqsa intifada was instigated by a visit of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount and fiery sermons in response from Muslim pulpits. Neither side believes in sharing. Will the historic situation of the Second Civil War in 68CE repeat when moderates lost control of the Temple Mount to both the zealots entering from the West and the Edomites from the east?

The Forthcoming Israeli-Palestinian Peace Agreement

The Forthcoming Israeli-Palestinian Agreement

by

Howard Adelman

When Riyad al-Maliki, the Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Minister, was in Ottawa at the end of September, he said that, although there are peace talks, he had little confidence that they would lead to a breakthrough. In saying that, he probably expressed the vast majority of both Israeli and world public opinion. And guess what? Look who agreed with the Palestinian Foreign Minister. On Saturday, Israeli Foreign Minister Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are unlikely to bear fruit. But he added two telling phrases: “within the envisioned nine-month timeframe” and, further, that, “dialogue should continue”. Lieberman now supports the talks and expects them to go beyond the nine-month framework. He went onto say, “I don’t believe it is possible in the next year… to achieve a comprehensive solution to achieve some breakthrough, but I think it is crucial to keep our dialogue…because, even if you are not able to resolve the conflict, it’s very important to manage this conflict.” Lieberman did not explicitly state it, but he has clearly and unequivocally backed away from his oft-repeated axiomatic belief that there was NO chance for ANY agreement EVER.

What has changed?

The day before, John Kerry, the American Secretary of State, said, “I believe we are closer than we have been in years to bringing about the peace and the prosperity and the security that all of the people of this region deserve.” Further, look at what Obama said to Haim Saban at the same Saban Forum in Washington on Saturday. (The interview is well worth hearing; half of it and all the questions from Israelis afterwards dealt with the Iranian talks – http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/316685-1 indicating what is foremost in Israeli minds.)

After Saban thanked Obama for his efforts and discussed the Geneva Agreement with Iran, he asked Obama about the possibility of an American-imposed agreement. Obama repeated his old refrain that the Palestinians and Israelis had to make the peace and the USA could only be a facilitator. He congratulated Abbas and Netanyahu for engaging in very serious talks on the substantive issues. He also said that everyone knows about the outline of the deal. Will each side be able to meet and make a deal that respects each party’s bottom line? Then he made this declaration: “I believe that in the next few months that we will be in a position that will provide a framework agreement for a two-state solution. The Americans had spent a lot of time to understand Israel’s security requirements and that the US could understand it and make provision for those security concerns.”

At the end of November, Tzipi Livni, the Justice Minister who heads the talks, was interviewed by the Turkish Press. She said that substantial progress is being made and, in reiterating this view to Esti Perez on Israel Radio’s program “Midday”, she said that successful completion of the negotiations will require “experience and expertise” while ensuring Israel’s best interests. While the Palestinians sought to dampen expectations, the conditions were clearly signalled: the central question was sovereignty for the Palestinians and, that, in resolving the security question for Israel, dignity of Palestinians had to be respected.

An important shift had been signaled. The return of the refugees and the jurisdiction over Jerusalem were no longer the breaking issues. In the Saban Forum, President Obama said that he had assigned General Johm Allen, a retired United States Marine Corps four-star general whose final assignment had been commander of the International Security Assistance and U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) (Afghanistan) to determine whether it was possible to square the circle and create a two-state solution that can also provide for Israel’s security. It was crucial that Israel not be faced with a replica of Gaza. Allen reported back in the affirmative.

There was one clearly pronounced negative note at the Saban Forum. Israeli Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, on Sunday took issue with the critical comments of Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni made at the Saban Forum about the government’s recent decision to approve 3,000 new units in Jerusalem and the West Bank, but that was it. No fireworks! When Netanyahu addressed the Forum via a pre-recorded address but in a mannner that was firm and unsmiling, both the content and the mode were experienced as at odds with the informality and open exchanges encouraged among all participants at the Forum, even among most Likudniks.

The deal is being written as I write. It will consist of the following:

1. It will be another interim deal but it will not be called interim but will be characterized as a Framework Agreement (FA) which will entail mutual recognition of both a Jewish and a Palestinian homeland;

2) Thus, the FA will entail recognition of Palestinian sovereignty;

3) It will make provision for Israeli security involving a US military presence along the Jordanian border and a clear and unequivocal guarantee of Israel’s security as a Jewish state will be ensured by the USA;

4) It will involve an exchange of territory which will see the Palestinian side getting the equivalent of 100% of the territory Israel captured in 1967;  

5) the issue of sovereignty over Gaza will be settled in principle but postponed in practice in the recognition that Abbas will not make a deal that does not include Gaza but that Abbas does not control Gaza, so, although the deal will be restricted to the West Bank, the settlement of the West Bank will offer a model for Gazans;

6) Although the final status questions will be settled in the Framework Agreement, the deal will proceed in stages with fixed deadlines;

7) The framework agreement will not address every single detai, on the premise that it is  better to move forward than to move backward, but the arrangements on refugees, Jerusalem and the settlements will be dealt with in principle and left for future negotiations to spell out in detail;

8) On settlements, the Agreement will provide for a freeze on Israeli settlement building in areas under discussion for possible trade with Palestine;

9) The agreement on water has long ago been settled and will simply be reinstated and updated;

10) The Agreement on refugees will be settled in principle with the rate of return to a Palestinian state settled in further negotiations and the mode of settling compensation claims also determined in those negotiations;

11) The Palestinian parts of Jerusalem will fall under the jurisdiction of a sovereign Palestine;

12) The religious sites of the OldCity will involve an international authority in partnership with both Israel and Palestine.

The messiah always is coming but never manages to come. Peace Agreements, as much as we have come to believe that they belong in the same category, are, however, like Santa Clause; they do come. A year ago who would have believed that we would have a working agreement on chemical weapons in Syria or an interim agreement with Iran. It is a horrible experience when all the beliefs we hold dear are being shattered. Further, I must be mad to crawl out in such a limb, engage in prophecy, not because I will fall off, the limb, but because my prognosticating on outcomes of talks may jinx them. It is a sign that I have given up my belief in my magical powers to undermine peace negotiations by predicting their outcome. 

Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace – Part III: The Camp David Peace Agreement.08.05.03

Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace 08.05.13
Part III: The Camp David Peace Agreement

by

Howard Adelman

The Camp David Accords were not even signed when disputes arose over the interpretation. As well there were regrets over the terms. Jimmy Carter understood why Begin would not agree to a permanent freeze on settlements, but he regretted not pushing Begin to agree to a one year freeze. Further, he believed that Israel had agreed to a freeze on settlements for the duration of the autonomy negotiations and publicly said so. Begin insisted that he had agreed to only three months. Before the official signing of the Accords on the morning of 17 September he delivered a letter confirming that he had agreed to only a three month freeze. Carter believed that Begin had just misunderstood. But Carter claimed that the error was critical; because of the dispute and the impression of the Israelis changing the terms, Hussein refused to come on board with Egypt and join the peace agreement.

As it turned out, Begin was right and Carter was wrong. When the dispute arose, Begin called Aharon Barak and, since Barak had taken notes, asked what those notes said. Barak opened his notes and told Begin, “three months.” Further, Barak called Carter and told him what his notes said. Yet for twenty five years after, Carter kept insisting that the agreement was for the duration of the negotiations and that Begin had misunderstood, but Carter had nothing on paper to prove it. The argument over what was agreed upon set a bad tone and left a long shadow. Jimmy Carter: “Well, there I disagree with him. Because I was present and my strong belief in my written notes that say that Begin agreed to freeze the settlements during the autonomy talks. And the schedule for the autonomy talks was very clearly expressed. And Cy Vance agreed with me. But it was just a few days after that that Begin then announced, in my opinion, contrary to what he had said, ‘only three months’.”

However, President Sadat, who had no love for Begin, in spite of their severe differences, and had agreed between them to delete the clause to which they had previously concurred on supporting an undivided Jerusalem as both too sensitive at this stage and too premature, told the US Congress, “so what’s wrong about three months? I don’t think Begin would have gone back on his word.”

But the critical defining evidence came from Bill Quandt who was sitting outside the room when Cy Vance came out and said to Bill that we have a three month commitment from Begin. Quandt wrote it down in his notes and told Carter. The issue is not simply that the same stubbornness that made Jimmy Carter so effective in pulling off a deal was the same trait that made him blind to his own faults and culpability. It took him twenty-five years to acknowledge that he, not Begin, had misunderstood. However, he remained convinced then and became more convinced over the years that settlements were the single obstacle to resolving the issue in the Mideast and convinced many others of this myth about the peace process. The settlements are and have been a problem. But they are not the most important problem and certainly not the single obstacle preventing peace. The refugee issue has always been more important. And Jerusalem has been the most important obstacle. It is not just me saying that. Carter’s own ambassador to Egypt, Hermann Eilts, confronted Carter on this directly, not that it had any noticeable effect.

Carter had mediator’s remorse and had developed a vested interest in a particular solution and not just the process. He correctly accused Begin of having a “strong case of buyer’s remorse after Camp David” without recognizing his own. Most significantly, Begin’s feelings about the deal affected the leeway he gave Moshe Dayan and undercut his relationship with Ezer Weizman — if that relationship had not already been destroyed by the way Begin conducted the negotiations at Camp David. As Leon Charney, the main figure in the back channel discussions, interpreted the situation, Ezer Weizman, the crown prince of the Likud Party, resigned because he was very angry at Begin for being so sorry about the agreement that he felt pressured to sign. Weizman was also under the fallacious belief that he could take over the party.

So the Camp David Accords came at great cost. Sadat’s team refused to back him. Begin refused to back himself and cut the legs from under both Dayan and Weizman. Carter backed himself fully even if it meant he misinterpreted the agreement and contributed to the distrust and then blamed others for why King Hussein did not join the parade even though King Hussein explicitly told Harold Saunders that he supported the deal, wanted to make peace but could not do so publicly because he was not in a position to deliver without costing him his throne; the timing was just not propitious for him. Meanwhile, the Saudis reassured Carter that they supported the deal while they publicly condemned Sadat for unilaterally making such enormous concessions.

In retrospect, the shock was that a Camp David Accord was signed at all given what we now know and given Jimmy Carter’s serious flaws as a mediator. His strengths had to make up for those flaws because he helped pull off the even more difficult task of translating those Accords into a full peace agreement without the benefit of Ezer Weizman, with serious divisions among the Egyptians, with a castrated Moshe Dayan and an even more determined and stubborn Menachem Begin. None of this was conveyed, or perhaps could have been conveyed in the movie.

What could have been told was how Begin conceded to first allowing the Knesset to decide whether to endorse the agreement and then to return all of the Sinai and dismantle the settlements, thereby removing the final obstacle to the peace agreement. This left both the legacy of an historic breakthrough that deservedly won both Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat the Nobel Peace Prize and also the reinforced mistaken belief of Jimmy Carter and many others that if the settlements could be withdrawn, peace would follow.

It just ain’t true. Carter and others have continued to blame Israel as the main and, if not for the Arab terrorists, the sole obstacle to peace. This was the theme of his noon hour speech on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Camp David Accords. “Its key early provisions of the Road Map to Peace (which is in line with the Camp David Peace Agreement), however – a good number of them – have been rejected by the Israeli Cabinet. There were 14 caveats that have been promulgated by the present Israeli Cabinet that subvert some of the major portions of the “Road Map to Peace.” For Carter, peace depends on two and only two things: “One is that Israel refrains from retaining in the occupied Palestinian territories or the West Bank and Gaza the multiple settlements that have to be defended militarily and connected with a web of relatively uncrossable highways.” Second, “\he Palestinian national authority and all Arab nations must acknowledge the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Israel and its right to live in peace and must exert their combined effort to control and to prevent any further acts of terrorism or violence by any Palestinian group against the people in Israel.” One has to wonder how such a naïve man could have accomplished what he did even while acknowledging he did very little else with his presidency.

This blog is no place to review the extrapolations of his own mediating style to general principles set forth in Carter’s book, Talking Peace, or my strong disagreements with them. Some mediators are Machiavellian and not dedicated to truth as Carter has always been – even when he sometimes does not recognize what the truth is – but that does not invalidate that one style may be appropriate to some negotiations and a second to another. Secondly, Carter argued that the mediator has to be regarded as fair. Carter has never been fair. Understandably, he liked Sadat and disliked Begin. He agreed with Sadat and disagreed with Begin. Nevertheless, in spite of his obvious biases, the peace treaty that Israel and Egypt signed on 26 March 26 1979 reflected the Camp David Accords of 17 September 1978. This suggests that fairness in a mediator may not be a prerequisite to some peace negotiations.

Further, Jimmy Carter’s unfairness has only increased since then. In his book with the outlandish title, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, the term ‘apartheid’ – by his own account and lack of evidence – is preposterously unfair to Israel. Carter never even tries to establish that Israel’s motives have been racist. The book is a polemic with no effort to even be objective and truthful. He claims that Israel did not offer a deal to the Palestinians at Taba that met their latest demands, in spite of President Bill Clinton’s testimony that this was precisely what happened. At the twenty-fifth anniversary forum, Elyakim Rubinstein, who was at Camp David with Clinton as well as at Camp David with Carter, confronted Carter on this Big Lie, of course, without naming it as such because Rubinstein is after all a diplomat and I am a philosopher dedicated to clarity and distinctness.

Carter was not balanced or fair. Carter did not tell the truth to both sides – not because he was dishonest, but because he often did not recognize the truth. Carter insists that the mediator must understand the issues as well, but Carter did not and never has. Finally, Carter insisted that the final key to a successful negotiation is that both sides must see themselves as winners. That is also not correct both historically in this case and as a general principle. Both sides, historically, thought they lost a great deal. And that fear on the part of the Israelis reared its ugly head when, in September 2011, the new Egyptian Prime Minister, Essam Sharaf, suggested that the Camp David Peace Agreement could be (and should be?) revised.
Further, psychological research has established repeatedly that one need not believe one came out on top in a successful negotiation but one must believe that the other party lost as much if not more than you did. Carter was a success as a negotiator in this case in spite of himself. As Bill Quandt worded it: “This conflict needs more than a facilitator. It needs somebody on the outside who can be a catalyst, who can be a prod, who can be a friend, who can be a guarantor, and a real nag. Carter was all of that even though he was not just, was not honest with himself, nor objective, nor truly knowledgeable or even recognized how much both sides gave up and lost. Nevertheless, the agreement by and large remains an outstanding success.

One sign of that success was in one area where it failed. The Camp David Peace Agreement required that the United Nations provide a peacekeeping force. A Soviet threatened veto prevented that possibility. If this contingency took place, the United States promised to use its best efforts to create a multinational force. After Israel and Egypt agreed to a protocol change in the agreement, on August 1981 America set up an alternative Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) to be operational at the end of April 1982, the scheduled date for the Israeli withdrawal.

Bill Quandt not only spoke truth to power, not only understood mediation much better than Carter, but also, in contrast to both Jimmy Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski, did not mouth platitudes such as building on the road map. Quandt advised, “Don’t try to revive the road map…The problem with the road map was both sides were very tentatively committed to it, and the Americans weren’t very serious about it either…Secondly, it did not have a clear destination…the parties are looking by now at the details…They’re looking at actually what would happen in Jerusalem. What would happen on refugees, what would happen on borders, what would happen on security? How can these things be worked out? The generalities are not where the problems lie so much today.” Today was 2003. But those words are as applicable ten years later. Bill Clinton had the deal. That has the details. Refine it, shine it up and try to get both parties to sign on.

Easier said than done!