Shall We Revisit Jerusalem Corpus Separatum?

I’m comfortable bringing this up at Ricochet. I wouldn’t be at other websites. At Ricochet, members are smart enough to know that asking a question isn’t a declarative statement and raising an issue for discussion is not to be confused with a position taken.

The fate of Israel is a topic subject to extreme political correctness. To many, one is either for the existence of a Jewish controlled Israel or one is not, with labels of good and evil associated with the answer, complete with accusations of treason toward causes and religions as well as false claims of associations with enemies. These reactions can occur just for asking a question. I know that won’t happen here. Ricochet exists for this very sort of discussion.

I have always held a theory that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict boils down to one very small area – East Jerusalem. The Old City. The theory seems to have held water. It does not matter what the Jews offer geographically to the Arabs — the Palestinian bombs continue. Israel has ceded many other lands – Sinai, West Bank, Gaza – each with the hope that fighting will stop. Yet the Palestinian bombs continue. The bombing continues because that’s not the land the Arabs want. They want the Holy Land.

On the Israeli side, that they are willing to cede — and already have ceded — other lands suggests that the object of their negotiation is the retention of East Jerusalem as well.

While I have not seen such a poll and do wish that a reputable company would take one, I predict that if Israelis were asked if they could live with a peace where the Arabs control East Jerusalem the answer would be no. I predict that if Palestinians were asked if they could live with a peace where the Jews control East Jerusalem, the answer would be no.

There are two irrelevant discussions often held regarding land ownership – who was there first and who won the last war. Both are easily supplanted by a particular reality – land ownership will be determined by who has the ability to win the next war. Peace is nothing more than a period of time where we can stop people from fighting the next war.

The problem is that we can’t seem to stop Palestinians and Jews from fighting the next war so long as one or the other controls Jerusalem.

Even the world community remains split on the issue. While Israel has declared Jerusalem their official capital, only America recognizes the proclamation, while the rest of the world has rejected it. No country, not even America, has an embassy there.

Western Asia has proven to be an historical problem regarding land ownership because we deal not just with the passions of nationalism, which can fade after a defeat in war (although not always quickly); In Western Asia, we deal with the more supercharged passion of religion. The politics of war are secondary to religious fate in the mind of the religious warrior. For him or her, the land serves a higher purpose than resources for living. The land involves a promise from God.

In 1948, as modern Israel was being created, there was a proposal within the UN Partition Plan known as “Jerusalem Corpus Separatum.” Recognizing that Jerusalem is holy to three large religions, the proposal was to make Jerusalem the first international city administered by the United Nations.

Rather than live with the idea that one religion or cultural identity owned Jerusalem to the exclusion of others, everyone would own it. There is an important psychological distinction that should be made: Do not think of Jerusalem as “no one” owning it or the U.N. owning it. To be palatable, everyone must own it. Access to it must be maintained.

One issue that could drive revisiting Jerusalem Corpus Separatum is the futility of other solutions. The fact that this land has been conquered and re-conquered so many times can be offered as proof that all solutions are temporary. Some generation of people holds the record for creating the longest lasting peace there, but it certainly isn’t ours. Who among us is not tired of the fighting? What Israeli or Palestinian wishes to live with this kind of tension, fear, and death?

We would do well as a generation to serve God and mankind by creating a more lasting peace, or at the very least a more peaceful situation than exists today.

As stated, all peace is temporary and based upon the ability of those who govern to stop the next fight from occurring. The Jews and the Arabs see in the other someone they can wage a war against. If Jerusalem were an international city, both the Jews and the Arabs would have to calculate their chances in waging war against the other 190 countries that control the U.N. That seems a less likely fight to pick than against one another.

I’m mindful of one fear of the solution: Transforming the U.N. into a territorial governorship, with all the slippery slope arguments that can be made from there. While we should discuss that, let’s make that discussion secondary to the first, or we risk never having the first:

Would making Jerusalem an international city stop the violence between Israel and the Palestinians?