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

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid