Yerushalayim and al-Quds: Political Catechism and Political Realities

VOL. 30


No. 1
P. 5
Yerushalayim and al-Quds: Political Catechism and Political Realities


FOR MOST OBSERVERS, the greatest shock about the historic summit at Camp David in July 2000 between President Bill Clinton, President Yasir Arafat, and Prime Minister Ehud Barak was not that Jerusalem was the most difficult of all issues, but that a compromise, based on redesigning the shape of the city and dividing sovereignty, was even conceivable. This shock was due primarily to the strength and pervasiveness of misconceptions about Jerusalem.

Overall, the most common misconception about the Arab-Israeli conflict is that its intractability is based on misconceptions. In fact, the conflict has been sustained and difficult largely because the Palestinians and the Israelis have known only too precisely what their opponents wanted. Yet it is the case that misconceptions about certain aspects of the conflict have obscured opportunities for its transformation into merely a political and cultural rivalry. This effect of misconception is particularly powerful in the struggle over what Israeli Jews call "Yerushalayim" and what Arabs call "al-Quds."

The purpose of this article is to address the hitherto paralyzing consequences of four fundamental misconceptions about the future of the city. Depending on how far the negotiations have proceeded, readers of this article should consider it as either a prediction, a timely piece of advice to policymakers, an explanation as to why such a solution could be adopted, or background information to enrich efforts to move toward a future compromise. Four misconceptions examined:

1. that the boundaries of Yerushalayim are clear, unalterable, and congruent with those of the current municipality;
2. that a unified Yerushalayim under Jewish sovereignty has always been a powerful and central element in Zionism;
3. that within Israel the legal and administrative status of "united Yerushalayim" is that it has been annexed and constitutes a portion of the sovereign territory of the State of Israel;
4. that opinion among Israeli Jews at both the mass and elite levels is so firm that no possibility of compromise on the principle of Israeli rule over all of what is currently designated as Yerushalayim is conceivable.

I will argue that each of these beliefs is false. Moreover, I will show that by examining the gap between habitually recited beliefs and emotional and political realities, and by understanding, on the Jewish/Zionist side, the historical flexibility available for imagining Yerushalayim in symbolically and practically sufficient ways, a much wider array of futures becomes available for the overlapping communities that constitute today's Jerusalem. [1] 


Most people imagine that "Jerusalem" means the holy shrines, neighborhoods, and places that they themselves value highly and assume that the other party aspires to control precisely the same areas. The reality is that "Jerusalem" has many boundaries and meanings. To reach a solution to the problem of the city's future will require taking advantage of Jerusalem's multiple meanings rather than suffering from them.

In its most dramatic form, the idea that the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem as it is currently configured contains all of what Jerusalem is and has been and nothing more is summed up in the official Israeli designation of the city as having been made "whole" or "reunited" after the 1967 war. It is certainly true that some neighborhoods that were divided between Jordan and Israel in 1948 were "reunited" in 1967 within a single municipality (as had been the case during the British Mandate). However, there is absolutely no sense in which the overall shape of the city as it was drawn by Israeli bureaucrats in June 1967 (including some 25.5 sw. mi, or 65 sq. km of the West Bank, encompassing land from at least twenty-eight Arab villages and towns and dividing at least seventeen of these from much of their lands) can be seen as a preexisting entity (in any historical, religious, or emotional sense) that was "reunited" in 1967. The fact is that only 8.5 percent of the 17,750 acres over which Israel extended its jurisdiction in 1967 fell within the Jordanian-ruled "Municipality of al-Quds."
Thus, the new municipal boundary in June 1967 had never appeared on any map in the five-thousand-year history of the holy city. That is why no reference to an historical entity called "Jerusalem" appears in any of the decrees that made that line the new border of the Israeli municipality.
While influenced by desires to include as much land and exclude as many Arabs as possible, the precise location of the boundary was decided upon as a compromise between minimalist and maximalist positions advanced by various bureaucrats, military officers, and politicians. [2] The absence of any historical, legal, or cultural definition of the city corresponding to the new boundary is strikingly evident in the only description the government was able to give the new line, viz. a three-page list of longitudinal and latitudinal points. Despite enormous efforts to publicize the new enlarged shape of the municipality, as late as 1980 the Israeli press was publishing maps of the city that showed most of what had been added to the municipality as remaining outside "Yerushalayim." [3] Official Israeli recognition that this line was arbitrary, temporary, and changeable was reflected in the Knesset decision in 1980 to delete from the Basic Law the statement that the "integrity and unity of greater Jerusalem in its boundaries after the Six Day War shall not be violated." [4]


Jewish liturgical and biblical references to Jerusalem refer quite specifically to areas in and immediately adjacent to the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and the Temple Mount, including the "City of David," Mount Zion, and the Mount of Olives across the Kidron Valley. But we need not cast our minds back over the millennia—to Jebusites, Canaanites, King David, the Crusades, or Saladin. Let us consider instead what formulas were advanced by the Zionist movement when it was faced, in the 1930s, with an opportunity for statehood in the Land of Israel.
During the early twentieth century, Jews built residential neighborhoods and other institutions outside the walls of the Old City in suburbs that came to be known as the "New City" and eventually "West Jerusalem." In 1937, the Mandatory government's Peel Commission recommended the partition of Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state, with Jerusalem to be a British-ruled enclave. In response, and in preparation for the Woodhead Commission investigation into how Peel's recommendations could be implemented, the Zionist Organization established a "Jerusalem Committee" to draw up the Jewish Agency's proposals for Jerusalem in light of the Peel proposals, which separated Jerusalem's large Jewish population from the Jewish state. The Jerusalem Committee worked in a Zionist context in which a majority on the Jewish Agency Executive Committee had, even before the publication of the Peel Commission Report, decided on their readiness to forego Jewish rule of the Old City, known to be a red line for the British. The mainstream sentiment was that Jewish sovereignty over, or at least access to, the Jewish neighborhoods comprising the "New City" in western Jerusalem would be the Jewish Agency's red line. The primary Zionist leaders—David Ben-Gurion, Chaim Weizmann, Moshe Sharett, and Avraham Katznelson—each made their views clear on the subject. The crucial element, they argued, was to rule an area inhabited by many Jews and which the Jewish state could portray to world Jewry and to itself as "Yerushalayim." [5] From Ben-Gurion's point of view, Jews could hardly tell one piece of Jerusalem from another, so Jewish control of any part of the city might suffice to inspire Jews with the idea that "Yerushalayim" was once again their capital. [6] 

For the Jerusalem Committee, Jewish sovereignty over something that could be called "Yerushalayim" was crucial to the Zionist movement. It therefore proposed the division of Jerusalem. The Jewish section (in the West and including Mount Scopus, the site of Hebrew University) would be under Jewish sovereignty. The rest would be ruled by the British (see map 1). A suggestion that the Old City could be partitioned sothat the Jews could rule the area of the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall was rejected on the grounds that such unrealistic demands would jeopardize attainment of the primary objective-a Jewish political presence in the city. Similarly, the cemeteries on the Mount of Olives were excluded from the list of neighborhoods that the Jewish Agency proposed would constitute "Jewish Jerusalem". [7]

The history of Zionist calculations about Jerusalem before, during, and after the 1948 war again shows that no particular version of Yerushalayim has been a sine qua non of Zionism. The Zionist movement enthusiastically accepted the United Nation's November 1947 resolution partitioning Palestine, despite the fact that the resolution called for an internationally ruled "corpus separatum" for Jerusalem and a large area around it, which was therefore totally outside the sovereignty of both the Palestinian Arab and Jewish states.
This acceptance notwithstanding, great efforts were made during the fighting to link West Jerusalem to the strongholds of the nascent Jewish state in the coastal plain, although attempts to capture the Jewish Quarter of the Old City were given low priority. Indeed, Ben-Gurion ultimately refused permission to his commanders to conquer the Old City and even the rest of Arab Jerusalem when that opportunity did arise. [8] In Ben-Gurion's mind, pushing for more of Jerusalem than the world would be willing to accept would jeopardize Jewish statehood and encourage demands that Israel accept refugees or pull back from areas that had been earmarked under the partition resolution for the Arab state. [9] In the end, Transjordan and Israel came to an agreement to divide the city between them rather than secure its unity under international auspices. Given the post-1967 Israeli official insistence on the "sanctity" of the unity of Jerusalem, it is noteworthy that Israel and Transjordan were the only countries in the world that opposed the city's unification in preference for its division between them. [10] In the negotiations following the 1948 war, Ben-Gurion and the new government acted out of a clear preference for Israeli rule over "Jewish Jerusalem" instead of free Israeli access to the whole city without sovereignty over any part of it. [11] 


map 1.png

Thus, the districts that were established in 1949 as Israel's capital of Yerushalayim excluded important parts of "Hebrew Jerusalem," such as the Old City's Jewish Quarter, the Temple Mount, and the cemeteries on the Mount of Olives. Indeed, the map dividing Jerusalem into "al-Quds," annexed by Jordan in 1950, and "Yerushalayim," declared Israel's capital in 1949, is strikingly similar to the Jewish Agency's 1937 proposals to the Woodhead Commission—proposals that were more or less what Weizmann had presented to the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine during its hearings on the issue in 1947. In this context, one can understand why, when the Knesset moved Israel's capital from Tel Aviv in 1949, it claimed to have established Israeli rule not over a portion of Jerusalem but over "Jerusalem." From 1949 until 1967, Israelis proudly and defiantly, easily and naturally, described the area under Israeli control not as "West Jerusalem" but quite simply as "Jerusalem" (or "Hebrew [Jewish] Jerusalem")—the same "Yerushalayim" that Ben-Gurion described in January 1949 as "not only the heart of the land but the heart of the people." [12] 
It is true, of course, that not all of Jewish Jerusalem was within the boundaries of Israel. What is important to note is that this version of Jerusalem, even without the Old City, could be made politically and emotionally satisfying as a symbolic evocation of Zionism's response to age-old Jewish yearnings for a return to "Zion and Jerusalem." [13] As a specification of the city, it was as inaccurate as the current Israeli definition of the city, including as it does villages, empty areas, and refugee camps that have no more religious, emotional, or cultural meaning to Jews than any other piece of the Land of Israel outside Jerusalem. And if a politically satisfying depiction of the city could be constructed for Israelis without the Jewish Quarter, the Western Wall, and the Temple Mount, how much more satisfying a depiction of the city could crystallize, minus Arab neighborhoods and villages in East Jerusalem, but including Jewish access to or rule over these important Jewish sites?


One of the most egregious misconceptions about the post-1967 status of expanded East Jerusalem pertains to its status in Israeli law. Many believe that in June 1967, or by means of the 1980 "Jerusalem Law," this whole area was annexed and made a part of the sovereign State of Israel. Promoting the impression that this has occurred has indeed been a guiding principle of Israeli foreign policy, but in fact no annexation has taken place. From an official Israeli government legal and administrative point of view, and in terms of the substance of relevant Israeli Supreme Court decisions, the judgments of Israeli legal specialists, and international law, the governance of expanded East Jerusalem is as temporary and contingent as Israeli rule of the Golan Heights—an area, in whole or in part, that successive Israeli governments have been ready to relinquish.
Elsewhere, I have explained in some detail how the three legal and administrative measures promulgated in June 1967 constituted a careful and clever attempt to create an ambiguous legal situation that could slip gradually into the world's consciousness to create the impression of annexation. [14] Here I shall just note that the measures implemented, taken together, simply produced an administrative expansion of the boundary of the Yerushalayim municipality. Indeed, the government offered a formal declaration at the United Nations that its measures were purely administrative in nature, designed to improve municipal services, and had nothing to do with annexation. [15] 
Nor was annexation accomplished by the "Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel," passed in June 1980. The law simply states that "Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel." Because an amendment to the original bill specifying the boundaries of the city as those established in June 1967 was dropped, and because neither the word "annexation" nor "sovereignty" appears in the document, the law introduced absolutely no change in the legal claims Israel was advancing with respect to the size, shape, and legal/sovereign status of expanded East Jerusalem. [16] 
Although some have cited several Israeli Supreme Court decisions as having clearly determined that expanded East Jerusalem has been annexed to Israel, this is simply not true. In 1968, the court had observed in passing (in Hanzalis v. the Tribunal of the Greek Orthodox Church) that the actions taken in June 1967 had established "United Jerusalem" as "an integral part of Israel." But what that meant legally was left unresolved.
The best-known opportunity the Israeli Supreme Court had to speak clearly on this matter came in 1969, when an unusual case (Ruidi v. Hebron Military Tribunal) came before it on appeal. Although it has been incorrectly cited to prove the opposite of the conclusions it contains, the reasoning in this case and in its outcome is strong evidence for my interpretation of a legal situation in which the Israeli government remains extremely reluctant to make or test any official claim to having annexed expanded East Jerusalem.
Ruidi was an Arab antiquities dealer who transferred antiquities from Hebron to his store in East Jerusalem. The Military Government charged him with breaking the Jordanian law against exporting antiquities "out of the country" since, in view of the Military Government, East Jerusalem was no longer in the same country as Hebron. Ruidi's lawyers successfully demanded a restraining order against the Military Government. The military then brought the matter to the Supreme Court, which ruled against the dealer. It is not the ruling, however, but the basis of the ruling that is of interest.
Justice Vitkon noted that "large and important questions can arise in this matter," but that the court should and would avoid them in its decision. He rejected the deputy attorney general's argument that the imposition by Israel of its jurisdiction on expanded East Jerusalem was equivalent to annexation and criticized the Military Government for not asking the government for a formal determination about whether or not this was the case. Nonetheless, Vitkon reasoned that since East Jerusalem was "de facto" outside the same jurisdiction as Hebron, the Jordanian law could be applied, thus enabling him to decide the case without deciding whether East Jerusalem had indeed been made part of the State of Israel. [17]
Justice Haim Cohen, in his opinion, stressed that neither the Supreme Court of Israel nor the Military Government could make a determination as to whether East Jerusalem had been annexed or who was sovereign there. That, he emphasized, was a political problem, and his judgment against the appellant "was not a judicial determination in the extraordinary political question we have delineated." [18] In his comment in the case, Justice Y. Kahan asserted that the measures taken by Israel in June 1967 were not annexation, although they were "not inconsistent with the conclusion that the legislative intent . . . was to authorize the government to annex." [19] Thus Kahan makes it clear that in order to annex enlarged East Jerusalem, another legal action by the State of Israel would be required.
Yoram Dinstein's authoritative analysis of this case noted the ironic fact that here, as in other fora, the Arabs have served Israeli interests by exaggerating the meaning of Israel's declarations—interpreting them as representing the "annexation" of East Jerusalem, whereas Israel itself has always refrained from making this claim. [20] Dinstein argued that it was a pity that the problem of East Jerusalem's legal status had been allowed to arise, since Israel was on very weak ground on this issue and had not in fact annexed the territory in question. He concluded by noting that legally and formally Israel could not successfully assert (and had not asserted) its sovereignty over East Jerusalem or its annexation of it and sternly warned against making any kind of formal declaration of annexation or sovereignty over East Jerusalem. On the other hand, he recommended that Israel proceed to settle the area massively, consider its rule over the area dayenu ("enough for us"), and hope that eventually the "statute of limitations" would run out and that Israeli annexation could be established and recognized. [21] 


There is no longer any question that the boundaries of the city, and the entities those boundaries are said to separate, will ultimately change; the question is how and when. The speed with which this view changed from iconoclasm to the consensus opinion of informed observers following the July 2000 Camp David summit shows that decades of Israeli propaganda claiming that the entire municipality was Israel's "united, sovereign, and eternal capital" was less successful than had been believed. This campaign included the establishment as a national holiday of the day of the conquest/liberation of East Jerusalem, passage of the Jerusalem Law, creation of a Jerusalem cabinet ministry, promulgation of the "Jerusalem Covenant," the "Jerusalem 3000" extravaganza, and so on. The whole project now looks as bizarre as it always was—a fruitless effort to fetishize a vast swath of Arab-inhabited West Bank land as "Yerushalayim" and as sacred to all Jews.
Still, there is no denying that the campaign to identify the greatly expanding municipality as an icon of Jewish yearning for "Zion and Jerusalem" had a substantial effect. Although in the years immediately following the 1967 war, public opinion polls did occasionally ask whether compromise on Jerusalem was acceptable, the negative response rate was so high that pollsters stopped asking the question. By 1983, Mark Heller was describing Jerusalem's status as "the capital of Israel, undivided and wholly accessible" as a "transcendental value," "an intrinsic part of the collective purpose itself." [22] 
Indeed, precisely because this campaign was so successful, it is now crucial to understand that Barak's move at the July Camp David summit toward separating "Yerushalayim" from "al-Quds" was not a bolt from the blue or a sudden lapse by a desperate politician.
On the contrary, it was based on ideas nourished behind the scenes for more than a decade in think tanks, back-channel conversations, private talks among journalists, scholars, and other informed observers, as well as by politicians unwilling to associate themselves with these ideas publicly except in elliptical or implicit formulations. An understanding of some of the background to Barak's move on this issue provides reassurance that, contrary to right-wing Israeli assertions, the ideas discussed at Camp David will not be voided if and when Barak is forced from the political scene.

Yossi Sarid, the head of the Meretz party and a former minister in Barak's government, has not been one of those advocating dramatic moves to solve the Jerusalem problem. In October 1986, however, he declared on the Knesset floor that he favored "a withdrawal to the 1967 borders and the partition of Jerusalem." Two years later, the Civil Rights Movement (a predecessor of Meretz) presented a new political platform stating that Jerusalem "would remain Israel's unified capital," but adding that "its status is open for negotiation. The national and religious needs of Jerusalem residents would be taken into consideration." [23] Most famous of all, of course, is the Beilin Abu Mazin plan, negotiated in 1994 and 1995, when Yossi Beilin was deputy foreign minister in Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's government. This plan outlined an approach based on sharing the city politically, deferring the question of sovereignty over the Old City, and creating a Palestinian capital in Abu Dis and the contiguous Arab inhabited portions of "al-Quds." Far from being ostracized, Beilin emerged as a major contender for leadership of the Labor party and serves as justice minister in the current government.
Indeed, when Israelis were not mindfully trying to recite the official catechism of the inconceivability of any change in the size, shape, and meaning of Israeli rule over "united Jerusalem," they often revealed their "true" view of the problem as possessing a significant degree of fluidity. For example, in its annual Statistical Abstract of Israel, the Central Bureau of Statistics has always considered it necessary to explain that its listing of the state's surface area represents the "area of Israel according to 1949 Armistice Lines, including East Jerusalem and the Golan." [24] The late prime minister Rabin often referred to East Jerusalem (Mizrach Yerushalayim) as part of "the territories" (hashetachim). [25] 
An important indication that change in the status or shape of Jerusalem was not seen as inconceivable has been the repeated charges by Likud and other right-wing politicians that their rivals harbor flexible views on Jerusalem. Such attacks implicitly acknowledged the indeterminate status of the city. If the city's future were indeed immutable in the minds of Israelis, then the claim that prominent Israeli politicians with mass support would even contemplate "dividing Jerusalem" would be too silly to be useful politically. Each of these denunciations and warnings, including Netanyahu's famous 1996 attack on Shimon Peres that he would "divide Jerusalem," [26] implied, and actually demonstrated, that the Israeli public and leading Israeli politicians not only could, but did, believe in the possibility of a redivision of the expanded city—a redivision that to many Israelis opposed to the idea has seemed just one election or one political decision away.
Use of the issue of Jerusalem's future as a partisan weapon, although it may have had an immediately intimidating effect, also opened opportunities for politicians who privately favored some change in the city's status to develop formulations useful for encouraging future debate on the issue. When Peres defended his party against the Likud's attacks in 1990 regarding Jerusalem, he acknowledged the overwhelming Israeli Jewish consensus on a "united city" serving as Israel's capital but was careful to include the principle that the city's geographical definition was subject to change by government decision. Jerusalem, he noted, "within borders decided by the Government of Israel, will remain a united city where Israeli law will prevail." [27] 
Two weeks after Peres's comment, the Knesset passed a resolution, introduced by a hawkish Labor parliamentarian and supported by all the parties to the right of Labor, reaffirming "that united Jerusalem is under Israeli sovereignty and there will be no negotiations on its unity and status." The purpose of the resolution was the same as that of the Jerusalem Law—to force Israeli politicians to go on record against any compromise regarding expanded East Jerusalem. Tellingly, however, only forty-five deputies voted for the resolution. Four voted against, but the rest (seventy-one) either absented themselves from the balloting or abstained. [28] 
This inferential analysis of Israeli political discourse led me to make a prediction based on my 1993 Foreign Policy article. [29] I suggested that if Jewish Israelis were polled on the specific question of whether they would support trading designated portions of Arab East Jerusalem to the Palestinians in the context of a peace agreement, far more flexibility would be observed than if, as had been standard practice, they were asked the general question of whether they would be willing to compromise on "Yerushalayim." Unbeknownst to me, State Department analysts took up my suggestion and conducted a poll asking Israelis whether "they would be willing to trade Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem outside the Old City" for peace with the Palestinians. Fully 35 percent of Israeli Jews responded affirmatively, and this in the absence of any leading politician even suggesting this as a practical policy option. [30] 
Even more flexibility was found in subsequent polls. A systematic and unprecedentedly detailed survey of Israeli Jewish attitudes toward Jerusalem was carried out in 1995 by researchers at the University of Maryland and the Guttman Institute for Applied Social Research in Jerusalem with the support of the Ford Foundation. With questionnaires produced after intensive meetings with focus groups drawn from all sectors of Israeli Jewish society, the study produced illuminating findings. [31] 
Ninety-eight percent of respondents (all Israeli Jews) indicated that Yerushalayim was either "important" or "very important" to them personally. [32] Seventy-eight percent said that they opposed negotiations on Yerushalayim within the peace process. [33] However, the solidity of this opposition dissolved once the question shifted respondents' attention from whatever they were imagining as "Yerushalayim" to specific portions of the expanded municipality. Thus, although 95 percent considered the new Jewish neighborhoods constructed after 1967 in expanded East Jerusalem as important to them, only 59 percent said that the non-Jewish quarters of the Old City were important to them; only 45 percent said that "Arab neighborhoods in downtown East Jerusalem" were important to them; and only 42 percent said that "Arab settlements now included within Yerushalayim" were important to them. [34] Indeed, for those who identified themselves as close to the Labor party in political orientation, a full 73 percent said that "the Arab settlements which are now included within Yerushalayim" were either "not so important" or "not at all important." [35] 
By the end of 1999, it was no longer unusual for Israeli polling organizations to ask detailed questions about public views concerning the future of Yerushalayim. In their January 2000 "Peace Index" report, Ephraim Ya'ar and Tamar Hermann of the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research reported that 28 percent of Jewish Israeli respondents in a November 1999 survey were in favor of East Jerusalem becoming the capital of a Palestinian state in order to achieve peace. Only minorities of Israeli Jews reported feeling that Arab neighborhoods in and around al-Quds "belonged to Yerushalayim": Wadi Joz, 30 percent; Shaykh Jarrah, 32 percent; Shuafat, 42 percent; Ras al-Amud, 41 percent; and Abu Dis/Azariyya, 22 percent.
Nor is a sharing of Jerusalem inconceivable on religious grounds. This is clear from the mapping of the Orthodox eruv in the city. Jewish religious law, the halacha, prohibits Jews during the Sabbath from carrying anything outside a private domain. In order to make it possible to carry religious articles to the synagogue and to perform other necessary tasks, the law allows an eruv, or symbolic fence, to be erected around a large space so as to transform it into one enclosed area within which items can be carried. Traditionally, an eruv, made up largely of barely noticeable wires strung along streets, is erected along the boundaries of a Jewish community. It is instructive to note that the eruvin Jerusalem, constructed, monitored, and maintained by the Chief Rabbinate, does not coincide with the the city's official municipal boundary. As map 2 shows, the eruv instead winds its way through the "indivisible city," separating most of the densely populated Arab areas of al-Quds (including Silwan, Shuafat, Bayt Hanina, Issawiyya, Jabal Mukabir, etc.) from Jewish inhabited neighborhoods. Again, my point is that there are many images of the shape of the city, and ultimately far more flexibility available for solving the future of Yerushalayim and al-Quds, if the boundaries are considered political tools and not sacred lines.    

Without discussing details of possible maps or jurisdictional arrangements, it is important to note that these Jewish/Israeli conceptual and emotional repertoires concerning Jerusalem, matched by comparably flexible repertoires of meanings on the Palestinian Arab/Muslim side, provide usually unnoticed room for sharing and compromise. Setting aside the obvious dispute over the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, the partial overlap of the ancient City of David with Silwan, and the question of whether the Old City could be disaggregated into quarters, one can see that the relatively compact Arab residential and business neighborhoods of Bab al-Zahra, Wadi Joz, Shaykh Jarrah, al-Tur, and Silwan, proximate as they are to the Muslim and Christian quarters of the Old City, provide a potential focus for "al-Quds." This is an area that could be linked to Shuafat and Bayt Hanina in the north, Abu Dis and Azariyya in the east, and the Arab villages of expanded East Jerusalem to the south, and that would not contradict Jewish/Israeli political and symbolic jurisdiction over a "Yerushalayim" comprising the New City, Mount Zion, and some or all of the new outlying neighborhoods to the north and south of the Old City.

map 2.png

Challenges to casual beliefs in the permanence or sanctity of current boundaries can open up a variety of possibilities for either contracting or expanding the municipality. By portraying the solution to the city's future as involving the "accommodation of legitimate Palestinian interests within the boundaries of greater Jerusalem," politicians such as Public Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, who played a central role at the Camp David summit, contribute to a discourse that imagines new boundaries within "greater Jerusalem" that will divide Israeli and Palestinian jurisdictions and that will not correspond to the current municipal boundary. [36] In December 1999, Prime Minister Barak's chief negotiator, Oded Eran, launched a trial balloon by indicating that some Palestinian neighborhoods in al-Quds could be designated as "area B" and possibly eventually transferred to Palestinian sovereignty. [37] Meanwhile, Shlomo Gazit, former head of Military Intelligence and a leading figure in a working group on Jerusalem, proposed a radical and complete division of the municipality between Israel and Palestine on security and demographic grounds. [38] 

That this thinking has spread beyond professionals, think tanks, and liberal/Labor-party circles was indicated by an article published in the National Religious Party newspaper, Hatzofe, advocating division of the city in order to improve the demographic balance and demanding an end to improvements in services in Arab areas of the city on the grounds that they were likely to be turned over to Palestinian sovereignty. [39] Amidst speculation in June 2000 concerning the imminent crystallization of a Palestinian state, Yedi'ot Aharonot, Israel's largest circulation newspaper, published an editorial suggesting that with respect to Yerushalayim, "a likely solution will include redefining the boundaries of Israel's capital so as to exclude most of the city's Arab neighborhoods and include several Jewish communities on the outskirts of the city." [40] 


Yerushalayim/al-Quds is both a metropolitan area filled with human beings seeking to live normal lives and a basket of symbolic resources. Many of these are attached to specific locations, and some can be reattached to different locations within something credibly seen as part of the city. In this context, it is likely—and now increasingly seen to be likely—that a political solution to the city's future will be based on the existence of two separate or partially overlapping political entities: a "united" (Jewish) Yerushalayim and a Palestinian-ruled al-Quds. [41] 
Aside from the spur these ideas have given to public discussion of options formerly deemed inconceivable, notions of "contracting" the city can help the sides notice symmetries where they otherwise might not. A contraction of the Yerushalayim municipality that included relinquishing Arab neighborhoods, even some containing Jewish sites or Jewish inhabitants, could be seen as equivalent to the contraction in Palestinian Arab conceptions of al-Quds that have removed Qatamon, Musrara, and Talbieh—Arab neighborhoods of West Jerusalem lost in 1948—from their political image of the city. It is also worth noting, in this connection, that adjustments in the municipal boundary of the city, as have been repeatedly implemented along the portion of the municipal boundary within the Green Line, can under Israeli law (as of this writing) be implemented as administrative orders, with no necessary legal action by the full cabinet or the Knesset.
According to Jewish legend, Yerushalayim is situated between the gate to Paradise and the gate to Hell. Apart from suggesting the profound importance of carefully demarcating its boundaries, the image promises the rewards of peace if the city is managed well and the torments of war if it is not. But it is also often said that to manage the complex demands made upon the city and its environs will require the wisdom displayed by Solomon when confronted by two women claiming the same baby as their own. But my point is that Yerushalayim/al-Quds is not one clearly demarcated indivisible living organism and that this circumstance is a boon to all. By learning to analyze the different kinds of disputes that exist in and over Jerusalem and the different meanings that the sides attach to different parts or aspects of it, progress can be made toward demystifying "Jerusalem" as an unbreakable container of meaning that can, like the baby in the Solomon story, exist only if cared for entirely by one "mother" or the other.
What I suggest instead is that by uncovering just how arbitrary and malleable are the geographical boundaries of the city, we can disaggregate emotional and religious attachments from economic, security, and other interests. The fact is that there are even more Jerusalems than there are names for the city and its parts, and there are plenty of those: the Old City, the Jewish Quarter, Arab Jerusalem, Hebrew Jerusalem, Jewish Jerusalem, Greater Jerusalem (Yerushalayim Rabati), al-Quds, al-Quds al-Sharif, the Jerusalem Metropolitan area (merchav Yerushalayim), the environs of Jerusalem (svivot Yerushalayim), West Jerusalem, East Jerusalem, historical East Jerusalem, Jerusalem proper, Jordanian Jerusalem, Jerusalem suburbs, United Jerusalem, Jerusalem area villages, the Jerusalem district, etc. This list itself reveals the many different kinds of boundaries—geographical, emotional, cultural, religious, psychological, and economic—that exist in and around the city. By acknowledging these different boundaries, both Palestinians and Israelis can be encouraged to think about trade-offs that exist among different types of attachments they may have to different Jerusalems and about how potential zones of differing jurisdictional or political meaning could help them satisfy more of their values than static and monolithic pictures of the city's present and future.


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lan S. Lustick is professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of a number of books, including Unsettled States, Disputed lands: Britain and Ireland, France and Algeria, Israel and the West Bank-Gaza (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993).

1. The focus of this paper will be on misconceptions and political-mythic realities on the Jewish-Zionist-Israeli side. A comparable paper could and should be written focusing on the Arab-Muslim-Palestinian side.

2. Shalom Yerushalmi, Qol Ha'ir, 31 May 1991.

3. Ma'ariv, 14 March 1980, p. 21.

4. Jerusalem Post, 24 July 1980.

5. For details concerning the Jewish Agency's proposals to partition Jerusalem as its response to the Peel Commission Report, see Yossi Katz, Partner to Partition: The Jewish Agency's Partition Plan in the Mandate Era (London: Frank Cass, 1998), especially chapter 3, "The Proposal for Partitioning Jerusalem," pp. 61-84. 

6. See Motti Golani, Zion in Zionism: Zionist Policy and the Question of Jerusalem, 193 7-1949 (Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defense Publishers, 1992), pp. 26, 124-25 [in Hebrew].

7. Katz, Partner to Partition, p. 70.

8. Avraham Sela, "Transjordan, Israel and the 1948 War: Myth, Historiography and Reality," Middle Eastern Studies 28, no. 4 (1992), pp. 662, 678-80.

9. Uri Bialer, "The Road to the Capital: The Establishment of Jerusalem as the Official Seat of the Israeli Government in 1949," Studies in Zionism 5, no. 2 (Autumn 1984), p. 293.

10. See Motti Golani, "Zionism Without Zion: The Jerusalem Question, 1947-49," Journal of Israeli History 16, no. 1 (1995), pp. 39-52; and Sela, "Transjordan, Israel and the 1948 War," pp. 662-63, 679. For his part, then Israeli foreign minister Moshe Sharett was perfectly prepared not to incorporate East Jerusalem into the Jewish state, feeling strongly only that it be made the capital of a Palestinian Arab state in the West Bank rather than annexed to Transjordan. Gabriel Sheffer, Moshe Sharett: Biography of a Political Moderate (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 483.

11. Sela, "Transjordan, Israel and the 1948 War," p. 666.

12. Shlomit Keren, "The Decision on the Status of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel," Sekira Chodshit, no. 6 (September 1992), p. 6.

13. Ben-Gurion did refer to the Old City, but to no other portion of "Arab Jerusalem," as a part of "Jerusalem." The full quotation is as follows: "Jerusalem is within the area of the Jewish government-at this time, to my sorrow, without the Old City-exactly as Tel-Aviv." Keren, "The Decision on the Status of Jerusalem," p. 5.

14. Ian S. Lustick, "Has Israel Annexed East Jerusalem?" Middle East Policy 5, no. 1 (January 1997), pp. 34-45.

15. The locutions used by the Israeli government in 1967 to distinguish between Israeli administration over expanded East Jerusalem and annexation were, instructively, virtually identical to those used by Israeli foreign minister Moshe Sharett in 1948. Explaining the government's Jerusalem policy to the Mapai Central Committee in July 1948, Sharett noted that the government would "announce that those sections of the city held by Israel constitute a conquered area, that is, that we will not proclaim their annexation ... it should be clear that we are not declaring Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, only Israeli authority over these parts of the city." Quoted in Sheffer, Moshe Sharett, pp. 379-80.

16. According to Ruth Lapidoth and Moshe Hirsch, "the Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel, does not actually contain any innovation but merely repeats matters previously laid down." (The Jerusalem Question and Its Resolution: Selected Documents, ed. Ruth Lapidoth and Moshe Hirsch [AD Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Martinus-Nijhoff Publishers, 1994], p. xxvi.) It is precisely in response to the exposure of how thin has been the status of Yerushalayim's boundaries in Israeli law, and how malleable they may be in the context of negotiations, that right-wing parliamentarians have recently been pushing to legislate those boundaries.

17. Peskei Din (judgments of the Court), vol. 24, part 2 (1970), p. 421.

18. Ibid., 423.

19. Ibid., 424.

20. Yoram Dinstein, comment in Hapraklit 27 1971, pp. 5-11.

21. Dinstein, Hapraklit, pp. 519-22. The source of a good deal of the obfuscation recommended by Dinstein is a series of transliteration and citation errors that Israeli lawyers, scholars, and judges have produced from the Ruidi and other cases. For details on other Israeli Supreme Court cases dealing with the legal status of expanded East Jerusalem, see Lustick, "Has Israel Annexed East Jerusalem?"

22. Mark A. Heller, A Palestinian State: The Implications for Israel (Cambridge, MA. Harvard University Press, 1983), p. 116.

23. IDF Radio, 3 July 1988, trans. Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), 8 July 1988, p. 32.

24. For a detailed analysis of the Central Bureau of Statistics's difficulties in trying accurately to depict the map of Jerusalem without contradicting official policies regarding lines in and around Jerusalem, see Ian S. Lustick, "The Fetish of Jerusalem: A Hegemonic Analysis," in Israel in Comparative Perspective, ed. Michael N. Bamet (Albany: SUNY Press, 1996), pp. 152-53. 

25. See, for example, interview with Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, IDF Radio, 14 April 1987, trans. FBIS, 15 April 1987, p. 12; and Israel Television, 30 March 1993, trans. FBIS, 31 March 1993, pp. 21-22.

26. See also interview with Yitzhak Shamir, Jerusalem Post, 23 February 1990; Ariel Sharon, Israel Radio, 6 March 1993, trans. FBIS, 7 March 1990, p. 14; Sharon, IDF Radio, 12 February 1990, trans. FBIS, 12 February 1990, p. 14; and Shamir before the Knesset, IDF Radio, 14 March 1990, trans. FBIS, 14 March 1990, p. 16.

27. Divrei HaKnesset, 15 March 1990, trans. FBIS 15, March 1990, p. 32 (emphasis added). The long-term trend toward willingness of Labor party leaders publicly to consider adjustments in the status of expanded East Jerusalem and/or its residents is also apparent from the contrast between Labor's agreement to the participation of East Jerusalemites in the proposed negotiations and elections of 1990 and its opposition to comparable proposals during the autonomy negotiations in 1980-82. See Abba Eban, "Autonomy The Hour of Truth," al-Hamishmar, 15 January 1982. See also details about the Amirav-Siniora plan for the expansion and political division of the city, in Jerusalem Post, 4 February 1990; and Ha'Aretz, 23 May 1990.

28. Jerusalem Domestic Service Radio, 28 March 1990, trans. FBIS, 28 March 1990, p. 18.

29. Ian S. Lustick, "Reinventing Jerusalem," Foreign Policy, no. 93 (Winter 1993-94), pp. 41-59.

30. Information provided by David Pollack, at the State Department, who conducted the poll.

31. The study of Israeli Jewish attitudes toward Jerusalem was complemented by a parallel study of Palestinian views on the subject conducted in 1996 by Nader Izzat Sa'id and Jerome Segal. Both polls have now been published in one volume in Jerome M. Segal et al., Negotiating Jerusalem (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000).

32. Ibid., 240.

33. Ibid., 241.

34. Ibid., 245.

35. Ibid.

36. Jerusalem Report, 13 March 2000, p. 21.

37. Nadav Shragai, "Palestinian Authority to Get Civilian Control in Jerusalem Neighborhoods," HaAretz, 28 December 1999; and Ha'Aretz, 31 December 1999.

38. Shlomo Gazit, "Divide Jerusalem," Jerusalem Post, 1 February 2000.

39. Elisha Efrat, "Why Should We Provide for Them?" Hatzofe, 28 January 2000.

40. Yedi'ot Aharonot, 25 June 2000.

41. See for example, David Landau's report distributed by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, "Once 'Non-Negotiable,' Jerusalem Is on the Table," Jewish Exponent, 8 June 2000, p. 26. Previously this kind of proposal had been advanced by Adnan Abu Odeh ("Two Capitals in an Undivided Jerusalem," Foreign Affairs 71 [Spring 1992], pp. 183-88) and is similar to ideas discussed by the Palestinian delegation to the Washington peace talks in 1993. See Ha'Aretz, 25 June 1993; and Gershon Baskin, Jerusalem of Peace: Sovereignty and Territory in Jerusalem's Future (Jerusalem: Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, 1994).