News / Middle East

Jerusalem Old City Initiative Releases New Peace Plan

Multimedia

Audio
Meredith Buel

Israel and the Palestinians have resumed peace talks following a 17-month break in negotiations.  Possibly the most difficult issue on the table in the conflict is the future of Jerusalem's Old City - an area sacred to Muslims, Christians and Jews.  A group of Israelis, Palestinians, Canadians and Americans has released a new initiative designed to help the parties resolve this thorny problem.  

The Jerusalem Old City Initiative began about seven years ago when former Canadian diplomats recruited Palestinian and Israeli negotiators as well as U.S. Middle East experts to find at least a temporary solution to what has been a turbulent issue.

The release of the initiative coincides with the start of so-called proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

U.S. special envoy George Mitchell is expected to engage in shuttle diplomacy between the parties during the next four months.

Wendy Chamberlain is president of the Middle East Institute, the oldest Washington-based organization dedicated solely to the study of the region.

"Now these proximity talks are not the direct talks that we all hoped for," Chamberlain said. "But they certainly do represent a step forward after a long drought.  Special envoy Mitchell will be dealing with parties who are still very far apart."

The Old City Initiative proposes creating what it calls a special regime of Israelis and Palestinians, but run by an outside administrator with international standing.

One of the authors of the initiative, Arthur Hughes of the Middle East Institute, is a retired U.S. Foreign Service officer who served as the director-general of the peacekeeping operation between Egypt and Israel.

"We were always working on the basis that any recommendations that we made had to be workable and had to be sustainable," Hughes said. "Because it was obvious that if any agreement on Jerusalem and the Old City would break down, then the entire peace agreement would probably breakdown."

The initiative proposes a government that would oversee security, access to holy sites, zoning, archeological issues and planning.

A report outlining the idea says the creators of the initiative do not believe the Israelis and Palestinians will agree on sovereignty issues, such as how to divide the Old City, anytime soon.

One of the directors of the project, Michael Bell of the University of Windsor, is a former Canadian ambassador to Israel, Egypt and Jordan.

"We tried to be realistic," Bell said. "We wanted a system that would not fail with the first shock that it got -- the first murder in the Old City, the first contretemps [i.e, inopportune or embarrassing occurrence, situation or dispute], the first riot, the first attempt to sabotage what had been achieved and that led us to develop this special regime concept."

Another director of the project is Michael Molloy, a former Canadian ambassador to Jordan and Canada's coordinator for the Middle East peace process.  

"Our special regime is embedded in and grows out of an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty that establishes a Palestinian state," Molloy said. "It cannot be imposed.  It must be the creation of the two sides with a little help from their friends."

Gilead Sher was Israel's co-chief negotiator at Camp David in 2000 when the Israelis and Palestinians failed to reach a comprehensive peace agreement.  That meeting is often cited as a reason for the breakout of the second intifada, the violent Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.

Sher says both parties need proposals like the Old City Initiative.   

"We need this kind of unofficial work because within governments and within the official entities, some of the issues are too sensitive and too explosive to handle," Sher said. "This is one of them, of course."

Ghaith Al-Omari is the advocacy director at the American Task Force on Palestine and was a Palestinian negotiator at Camp David in 2000.  He says the proposal can be used by negotiators after the broad parameters of a peace deal are reached.

"The way the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations work, this issue will not be touched until the leaders come in and decide on sovereignty and then we are going to have, you know, a week for the negotiators to come in and actually put the practical issues on the table," Al-Omari said. "And that is when this kind of initiative becomes extremely valuable."

Those involved in the Jerusalem Old City Initiative estimate it will take a generation after a peace deal is reached until both sides will be able to agree on sovereignty for Jerusalem and the holy sites that make it unique.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs