City of Brass

City of Brass

A fair solution to Jerusalem

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

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.


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.

  • alan

    “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.”
    From page 256 of The Sum of All Fears via Google Books:
    “Jerusalem to become a dominion of the Vatican”
    I read that and thought: Yeah right, the Palestinians would agree to giving the ‘Crusaders’ control of Jerusalem.

  • marvin Lauver

    It is absurd that Israelis should divide up this great city. Since all of this land many years belonged to the Jewish people who were killed and purged from their own land. If I were the Jewish people I would run all the Arab devils into the sea and reclaim all their land that was theirs.
    Jut where do these Muslims think that they have any claim to land that clearly belongs to the Jewish people. It’s like their religion, they are screwed up.

  • Liz Reddinger

    I think this is a wonderful idea. I know that Israel is said to be the land of the Jews and rightfully ours and so on, but I personally think(and many other Jews with me) that the land of Israel will be given back to us when the messiah arrives. By Jews forcing Palestinians and Muslims to move out because it is written or because the Zionists say so is ubsurd. G-d would want us to wait for a fair revival instead of the slaughter of so many people from which their beleifs originate in Judaism as well! So, to stop the anger of the Zioists and to keep the many rightful Muslims at home, this idea would be the best solution. A single Muslim leader or a single Jewish leader would cause absolute chaos.

  • shinie

    great the whole land belongs only to the jews or the nation israel and not to any body else.we who live outside cannot judge properly or decide for them.the great LORD who guided them long back is still alive to guide them today HE will do the best just call him and HE will answer israel.nobody stands a chance against him even the so called mighty arabs nations.

  • Anonymous Coward

    It’s not often that I can read a series of user comments and each successive comment is more insane than the one before it. I thought this was an interesting post… the responses are so silly that I can barely comprehend that they came out of functioning human brains.
    I’ll agree with Koch in that if the Jerusalem question can be solved, the rest will go easier. But, I don’t believe this question will EVER be resolved. Israel won’t ever allow the city to be divided and will never give up control of it. So long as the nation exists, I can’t imagine that ever happening. I think that will always be the deal-breaker for both sides. If there’s any chance of a peaceful two-state solution, Israel will have to give up much more land (and some valuable land) in light of their entrenched position of Jerusalem. Some of this land is considered to be strategic, in a military sense, but you can’t have it all. Something has to give. I don’t really see this as a situation that will ever be resolved, sadly.
    But what do I know? I’m no expert. I’m just some agnostic, Zionist Jew, living in NYC that thinks that people probably shouldn’t have to suffer crippling economic and health conditions, under siege, nor should others fear for bombs or missiles in their shopping centers and cafes. Certainly not because former colonial powers enjoyed a whimsical approach to map-making. Seems like a lose-lose to me.

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