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

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukrainian PM Warns: Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid