Beliefnet
City of Brass

I remember reading one of the books by Tom Clancy in which Jack Ryan was credited with coming up with a solution for Middle East peace which was pointedly never actually detailed in the novel. It was just a way to give his character some foreign policy cred, but ended up like that mysterious suitcase in Pulp Fiction.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of that, though, when I read former New York mayor Ed Koch’s innovative solution to resolving the status of Jerusalem.

Instead of putting the hot-button issue of Jerusalem last on the agenda, the issue should be addressed first. If the Jerusalem question is solved, everything else should fall into place more easily.

I believe there is a way to keep Jerusalem unified. I am talking not only of the old walled city, which is a very small part of the city of Jerusalem, but the whole city, east, west, north and south.

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My suggestion is to situate the new Palestinian capital in that part of East Jerusalem that is occupied overwhelmingly by Palestinians, allow the inhabitants of East Jerusalem — Jews, Christians, Muslims and those living elsewhere in the city — to pick the state to which to pledge their allegiance and to cast two votes – one in municipal elections for one mayor to govern the entire city of Jerusalem, and a separate vote in national elections related to the Jewish and Palestinian states living peacefully side by side.

Jerusalem is now roughly two-thirds Jewish and one-third Muslim. The Christian population is about 2 percent. All under the proposal would be voting for a single city council and one mayor. Based on the current population, the mayor would be Jewish. If the demographics changed over the years in favor of the Muslims, a Muslim mayor could be elected.

New York City with its model of five borough presidents is a good model to emulate with Muslim and Jewish areas electing borough presidents to respond to the local needs of the inhabitants. If I could live and govern when I was mayor with Andy Stein as borough president of Manhattan, the mayor of Jerusalem can live and govern with a borough president elected in the Palestinian part of East Jerusalem.

My only quibble is the purely gratuitous recounting of selective historical injustices, with which Koch actually undermines his own argument by providing a preview of the reasons the Israelis will use to reject the proposal out of hand. But the proposal itself is fair and realistic.

This came to my attention via MJ Rosenberg’s excellent email newsletter. He comments further,

Koch’s idea eliminates the possibility that Jerusalem would be divided. It would not be, except in the sense that New York City is divided into Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

At the same time it enables East Jerusalem to be established as capital of the Palestinian state, while protecting the right of East Jerusalem’s Jews to essentially ignore its status as Palestinian and remain full-fledged Israeli citizens. Naturally, Arabs and Jews would be able to live in any part of the city while retaining their status as both citizens of Jerusalem and of their respective Israeli or Palestinian state.

This is something that would be ideally incorporated into a peace plan by Obama presented to both sides, as honest broker. The key though is to make the issue a starting point, not part of “final status” negotiations. And frankly this idea of “proximity talks” is pretty pointless.

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