| August 23,
Israelis and Palestinians have struggled for years to reach a peace agreement. At the heart of their dispute is the city of Jerusalem, which each group claims as its rightful capital.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: From the Mount of Olives, the Old City of Jerusalem shines in the morning light. The city is vibrant, alluring. Muslims, Jews and Christians go about their day's work on walkways in continual use for thousands of years. But the ground is shifting underneath. The issue of sovereignty over Jerusalem was on the negotiating table for the first time publicly at Camp David last month, and some say nothing here will ever be the same again. Israel annexed the eastern part of the city after the 1967 Six Day War. The issue now is how much of the city Palestinians will get-- if any-- as part of their new state.
MERON BENVENISTI: This is supposed to be handed over to the Palestinians, which means that this is going to be a Jewish sovereign area and that is going to be a Palestinian sovereign area. And the question is who is going to maintain the traffic lights.
|'We can't live without Jerusalem'|
MERON BENVENISTI: Just because there cannot be an ultimate solution for Jerusalem. It is impossible to achieve, and once you start dealing with arrangements that are aimed at resolving the conflict, you tend to open a can of worms, open a genie... a bottle, and then the genie comes out. This is exactly what's happening now.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The Jerusalem issue has provoked demonstrations and helped fracture the governing coalition of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. These protesters - many of them from the opposition Likud Party - marched around the periphery of the old city earlier this month. Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert, of the Likud Party, pleaded their cause - first in Hebrew, then in English.
MAYOR EHUD OLMERT: For thousands of years the Jewish people prayed for this place. For thousands of years we dreamt that one day we will come back to the holiest of all places for the Jewish people.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: That place is the Western, or Wailing, Wall, and on this night thousands of Jews prayed there. It was the eve of the annual day of mourning for the destruction of two great Jewish temples, including the one built by Solomon 3,000 years ago. The stones of this wall are all that remain of the Mount on which the temples stood.
MAYOR EHUD OLMERT: While we are ready to share, we are determined that the Temple Mount will never be handed over to become the sovereign place of any other nation but the Jewish nation.
ADNAN HUSSEINI: We love Jerusalem. We love Palestine. We can't live without Jerusalem.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Earlier the same day on the temple Mount -- or Haram Al Shariff in Arabic, Adnan Husseini, administrator of the Islamic Holy Sites here, stated the Muslim claim to this place.
ADNAN HUSSEINI: This is the heart of the world. This is El Aksa mosque. This is the most holy place, with Mecca and Medina, in Islam; and it is God's will that Muslims will be here since 1,400 years, and this is a declaration from God.
|After Camp David -- more tension|
| ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: On this day, Husseini was trying
to defuse tensions he said were caused partly by the Camp David talks.
ADNAN HUSSEINI: We can say that there is more tension, and there is more movement of the settlers around the area.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: He was talking about member of a small Jewish sect which sends people onto the mount frequently -- for religious reasons, they say -- for provocation, says Husseini. Israel has political sovereignty here, but Palestinian Muslims have administrative and religious control over this site. El Aksa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock are holy to Muslims because they believe Mohammed began his ascent to heaven here. And Adnan Husseini -- like most Palestinians we spoke to -- said Muslims must have not only religious sovereignty over this place but political sovereignty too. That is the nub of the issue that broke up Camp David last month. Both sides insisted on sovereignty over this small plot of land. Israeli archeologist Jon Seligman explained:
JON SELIGMAN: The problem is the proximity of the all the different sites together. I mean, if you look behind my shoulder, you can see two of the major sites of the issue-which is the Wailing Wall -- the Western Wall -- which of course is a major sacred site in Judaism, and just behind it you can see the major site to Islam, which is the Dome of the Rock and the El Aksa mosque, so these two sites are not some distance apart, but they are right next to each other. In fact, they're not differentiated at all, they're exactly the same site.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Under one plan proposed at Camp David by President Clinton and widely publicized in newspapers here, the Israelis would retain what was called "soft" sovereignty over the Mount while Palestinians would have "custodial" sovereignty. The rest of the Old City is divided into four quarters; and under this plan, the Muslim and Christian quarters would be Palestinian; the Jewish and Armenian, Israeli. Beyond the walls of the Old City, East Jerusalem's inner neighborhoods, while remaining Israeli, would come under what was called Palestinian "functional autonomy;" while outer neighborhoods like these would become part of the new state of Palestine. Under this proposal, the capital might be just beyond the city limits here -- in Abu Dis -- where a Palestinian Legislative Council is already under construction. A special road or bridge would connect Abu Dis with the holy sites of the Old City, just visible on top of the hill. None of this plan was formally accepted by either side; but it gives a sense of what's being discussed -- even now. Barak Cabinet Minister Yuli Tamir, who is close to the negotiations, explained.
YULI TAMIR: What we're trying to do is to reexamine the notion of sovereignty and to try to sort of divide sovereignty -- not to look at it as a holistic term that one side has sovereignty therefore the other side has none. And we're trying to work out a situation whereby shared sovereignty is not territorially shared but functionally shared.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Would it be possible to solve the problem by giving you (Palestinians) religious sovereignty and Israel retain political sovereignty over this area?
ADNAN HUSSEINI: Well, I have religious sovereignty, but I am suffering. I don't have any freedom of this sovereignty. So, I believe that without the political sovereignty, I can never has this freedom sovereignty of religion. It is exactly the same situation of occupation though in another way -- in a peaceful way instead of occupation and power. So this can never be accepted.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, who was appointed by the Barak government to oversee the Jewish holy places in Jerusalem, is also coping with the effects of Camp David. An ultra-Orthodox Jew, he worries too much will be given to the Palestinians.
RABBI SHMUEL RABINOWITZ: (speaking through interpreter) No doubt it concerns me. We remember that 33 years ago--until 1967--the Jewish people could not approach the Western Wall. It was under Arab rule, and Jews were prevented from going to the holiest place. Since 1967, the Jews have allowed every Muslim, every Christian, every man to get to their holy sites and pray their own way. I am truly a person who advocates peace, and I am willing to give up a lot for the sake of peace. This is not just lip service. I honestly think that it's crucial that there will be no more bloodshed. But I would like to stress how important Jerusalem is to us and how we cannot be separated from it because it is truly our life source. I don't know what the solutions are, but I'm pessimistic about finding a solution to Jerusalem.
|Learning to accept less|
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan, a Palestinian who often speaks for the Christian clergy here, is more hopeful. On his walks through the streets of the Old City, he says, he finds that underneath the rhetoric of both sides, acceptance of change is growing.
BISHOP MUNIB YOUNAN: You know, it's a matter of awareness building, and it's a matter of maturity.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Of awareness building?
BISHOP MUNIB YOUNAN: Yes. And maturity, and a matter, you know, of time. You know, ten years ago, had I told the Americans that Mr. Arafat will meet Mr. Rabin, they would have said that I'm a freak. Now if we ask the Israeli public on the issue of a Palestinian state, I think you'll find most of them are convinced that the Palestinians should have their own state. You see, on the issue of Jerusalem, I mean, it's the same thing. It's a matter of, you know, awareness building.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: In random interviews in the Jewish quarter, some Israelis reflected this new awareness. Yaron Schrem owns an art gallery.
YARON SCHREM: It's destiny that these two people-- Arabs and Jews-- they have to live together. That's destiny. So we have to just find a way to live together.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: David Bar Levav, the son of Holocaust survivors, has owned this antiquities shop in the Jewish quarter for 30 years.
DAVID BAR LEVAV: I would want that the whole of Jerusalem will be under Israeli rule and then the Arabs becoming citizens of Jerusalem, and an open city for everyone as it is actually now, but I know that the reality puts some boundaries to what you can wish.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Are you willing to accept something less than that?
DAVID BAR LEVAV: I guess that we will have to accept something less than that.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Among Palestinians in the marketplace, the mood was more somber. This man said negotiations over the years had not improved anything.
HAJ OMAR JROUD: (Translated) They didn't do anything for us since 1948. We are going backwards, not forward. We didn't see a good day to talk about.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Outside the Old City walls, there was more hope. Adly Hamouri owns a shoe store on Salahadin Street.
ADLY HAMOURI: What we heard about Camp David talks was good, and what we need from Camp David talks is a good solution. This is a city for everybody, but we don't want to have a Jerusalem where somebody rules us.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: In other words, you...
ADLY HAMOURI: I want to rule myself.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: That desire, shared by many Palestinians, makes frequent confrontations with Israelis inevitable, even as negotiations continue. In a melee earlier this month, Palestinians chanted, "all Jerusalem is Arabic" as they confronted Israeli police. The police had blocked entrance to a meeting between local Palestinian leaders and visiting business executives from abroad. The meeting was illegal, police said, because the Palestinian Authority, which has a kind of de-facto government here, is not allowed to receive foreign visitors or have political meetings in Jerusalem without a special permit. Faisal Husseini, whose grandfather, great uncle, and great-great uncle were all mayors of Jerusalem in earlier times, is a top Palestinian official in the city.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What's happening here?
FAISAL HUSSEINI: As you see, there is an occupation in Jerusalem. Those people here, the police here, they have the control. They have the power to control the city. We would like to have a meeting here at this place and they want to forbid us from having such a meeting.
|The turning point|
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: In the end, the police permitted a less formal gathering to take place in another location, and there was no violence, but the potential is always there. It's because of that potential, Bishop Younan says, that an agreement now is so important.
BISHOP YOUNAN: This is a turning point in our history both of Palestinians and Israelis. If we don't seize the moment and really find a negotiable solution where it gives everybody their equal rights, I think there will be a deep crisis.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Meron Benvenisti warns such talk does more harm than good.
MERON BENVENISTI: It is not a question if are we not going to resolve it now -- then there's going to be bloodshed. This is wrong even to suggest, because this is not how it's done here. This is a place where there is no redemption and no apocalypse.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: As their destinies are debated, people in this very special space continue their daily lives. But everywhere questions hang in the air, like jasmine on the old walls.