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

    US Watching as North Korea Opens Biggest Political Meeting in Decades

    As Workers' Party Congress opens, Washington anticipating possibility of another missile launch or nuclear test as top officials gather

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    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.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora