HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

December 10, 2007
Could Moscow and Washington
Have Shared the Same Piece of Land?

James Adler


The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz asks readers on its site this question:

"Can Jerusalem become Two Capitals?"

And a reader responds with a strong NO.  He asks this emphatic rhetorical counter-question to make his point:

Could Moscow and Washington have shared the same piece of land?"
 
Now, my sense of the matter is this:

Moscow and Washington had to and did share the same piece of land -- the Earth. They compromised at every necessary crucial moment, such as during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and every time they did so they had to keep down their extremist saber-rattlers on each side, to prevent their own sides' extremists from getting the world blown up. Each side used enough rationality and moderation and inner strength to prevent extremism from blowing up the world.

The question now is whether Israelis and Palestinians are going to keep their extremists in check, or whether they are going to allow the extremists on each of their own sides to start a worldwide conflagration.

Peace means letting Israel live in peace and security near the 1967 borders, equal exchanges of land to let Israel keep its large adjacent settlements, removing the rest of the settlements, and giving each nation their own part of Jerusalem. The Soviets and Americans proved themselves rational and inwardly strong enough to keep the peace.

Will the Israelis and Palestinians?

When Israel was created Jerusalem was considered obviously so preeminent to both sides -- and to the three major world religions -- that it was designated an international city under international administration.

This could not happen after the war and lack of a peace agreement, so was not insisted on, and hence the Green Line went through Jerusalem.  But the idea that the Palestinian Arab side could have none of Jerusalem would have been considered totally unjust, not only to the Palestinian Arab side (which didn't even want partition of the Mandate in the first place) but especially unfair and unjust to the nations that went out on a limb to create Israel, like the United States, which in supporting the partition of the Mandate brought Israel into existence in the first place.

A Palestinian East Jerusalem would have to have open access to its Holy Sites this time.  

Last time it was different because partition was the result of a war.

But Jordan and Israel have now had a long peace agreement, and the partition of Jerusalem this time will be the result of a comprehensive peace agreement.

In sum, if the Mandate of Palestine is to be partitioned between the two peoples, then its main city and capital city also has to be partitioned between them. 

This is the essence of equity, faithfulness to the intentions of those who carried out the original international decision for partition and the creation of Israel, and especially for any future of peace. 

And above all partition is required or there will never be peace but rather the ultimate implosion into horrific self-destruction of both sides in this conflict.

Compromise and justice and peace and partition or an ultimate war of annihilation-- this is the stark alternative for both Israelis and Palestinians-- and the extremists on both sides that have so far kept it from happening.

Therefore, back to the Ha'aretz reader's original question:

The question should actually be whether the Israelis and Palestinians, unlike the Americans and Soviets, will allow their extremists to set their two sides' agendas for them and push the world into getting blown to pieces. Or will the moderates develop the inner strength and courage to prevail for the sake of themselves and us all?


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