Alternative Insight

Jerusalem and the Peace proposals

A lack of proper Guides

The Failures of the Camp David Accords

Jerusalem is a beacon of all three faiths. Accords must consider the beacon and continue shining that beacon for the three faiths. By replacing reality with rhetoric, the proposed Camp David accords dimmed the beacon. The reality is that the accords could not be acceptable to the Palestine Authority. Rhetoric, emphasized by President Clinton's outburst against President Arafat, attempted to gather world opinion to favor the United States approach and force the Palestinian Authority to accept "world opinion." In retrospect, the proposed accords lacked proper guides to successful arguments.

The Lack of Proper Guides

  • Israel and the United States maintained that Barak made "historic compromises," that Arafat refused to accept the worth of these "compromises" and that Arafat had been delinquent by not making comparable compromises. These were false assumptions and unwise guides to successful negotiations.
  • The negotiations gave too much prominence to religious beliefs that have been derived from myths and oral history.
  • The accords failed to give sufficient importance to the legal arguments; who owns what, which populations reside where, and the time periods in which the populations have resided in their locations.
  • The accords spoke of territory rather than property rights, and of demands by governments rather than demands of the people who have breathed the Jerusalem air for centuries.

The Compromises

Everyone who owns property or a home has sovereign rights to that property or home. Religious institutions have sovereignty in their own institutions. The Arabs have sovereignty by default in their religious institutions located in the area they call the Harim al-Sharif. By assigning the Palestinians "sovereignty" to Moslem religious sites, Israel conceded nothing to the Palestinians that the Arab population didn't already have. Just because Israel "conceded" more than previous Israeli governments didn't mean that Israel made major concessions, or concessions on anything to which they were entitled by law. No resolution has ever awarded sovereign rights to Israel in the areas of East Jerusalem and the Holy city that are already overwhelmingly populated by Palestinians. Israel has attempted to achieve the important sovereignty, political sovereignty, by emphasizing the religious factor, and by using myths rather than realities to contend with the legal arguments that would deny them sovereignty in Jerusalem?

The Realities of Jerusalem

The major reality of the Temple Mount/Harim-al Sharif is that it contains only visible Moslem constructions. Moishe Dayan wrote in his book "Milestones": "..since for the Muslims, the Temple Mount is "a Muslim prayer mosque," while for Jews it is "only a historic site of past memory," it followed that "the Arabs should be permitted to continue their practices here from the past," and the rights of the Muslims to rule over the site should be recognized. After years of archaeological excavations, one of which was led by Israeli archaeologist Professor Benjamin Mazar, the Israeli Foreign Ministry stated: A thumb sized, vase shaped ivory pomegranate "is the only known relic associated with the Temple by King Solomon." Herschel Shanks, editor of the Biblical Archeology Review, states: Not a stone of Solomon's Temple has survived. (Jerusalem, An Archaeological Biography, P.49) Add to these significant observations the conclusions expressed in a book by Meir Ben-Dov, who directed the Mount Moriah excavations that began in 1968:

There are five centuries ( 500 B.C. to 1 A.D.) about which our historical knowledge, the Temple Mount, and the Temple itself is relatively abundant. But the lion's share of the information comes to us from written sources alone, for no archeological excavations prior to the Six-Day War (1967 war) yielded any more than a paucity of finds from this rich period. In fact, anyone attempting to reconstruct the history of Jerusalem through archaeological means would find himself in very difficult straits when it comes to this span of half a millennium. The only material available is common to all artifacts, all of them small objects, architectural finds-meaning the remains of buildings-are almost entirely absent. Of course, we hoped that our own dig would change this sorry situation, but our hopes went unfulfilled. Neither our excavations below the Temple Mount nor any of the other digs carried out in the Old City after the Six-Day War uncovered any architectural remains.

Meir Ben-Dove
In the Shadow of the Temple, P.64

Jerusalem's Old City contains many religious sites of the Christian religion and several of the Moslem religion. The Jewish religion is mainly sanctified in the Old City with a negative memory-- the destruction of the Temples. Except for the Western Wall, incorrectly known as the Wailing wall, does Jerusalem's Old City contain any major existing Jewish religious constructions or monuments from ancient times? If the answer is "no" then shouldn't the religious polemic be re-examined? Even the significance of the "Wailing Wall" is debated. The old city Western Wall, a bearing wall of the temple platform constructed by King Herod under Roman rule, is considered to be revered by Jews as the most existing spiritual construction of their heritage. According to Karen Armstrong, Jerusalem, Jews did not pray at the Western Wall until the Mamelukes in the 15th century allowed them to move their congregations from what at that time was a dangerous Mount of Olives, and permitted them to pray daily at the Wall. At that time she estimates that there may have been no more than 70 Jewish families in Jerusalem.

Historical Disclosures

Ancient religious tracts, such as the Bible and Talmud, and the beliefs that accompany them, deserve consideration as reference sources. To gain acceptance as history, these tracts must be accompanied by documented and archaeological proof. Belief must have substance so that it is not interpreted as conjecture. It is difficult to assay archaeological discoveries and make firm conclusions from them. It is also difficult to separate true history and valid archeological conclusions from the intertwined biblical tracts that appear in the literature. Reliable archaeologists, after examining excavations that contain pottery shards and buildings, have concluded that the archaeological finds don't substantiate the biblical history of Jerusalem and its importance during the eras of a united Jewish kingdom under David and Solomon.

Margaret Steiner in an article titled It's Not There: Archaeology Proves a Negative in the Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August, 1998, states:

...from the tenth century B.C.E. there is no archaeological evidence that many people actually lived in Jerusalem, only that it was some kind of public administrative center...We are left with nothing that indicates a city was here during their supposed reigns (of David and Solomon)...It seems unlikely, however, that this Jerusalem was the capital of a large state, the United monarchy, as described in Biblical texts.

According to Michael Grant, The History of Ancient Israel, the ancient Hebrews only had a unified nation for a short period of 60 years, during the reigns of King David and Solomon. After that time, Israel and Judah remained separate states with Jewish populations that warred upon one another. Israel, the northern state, with a capital at Samaria had four times the Jewish population of Judah, the southern state that had Jerusalem as its capital. Although Israel was considered a more significant state, Judah survived Israel by 135 years. After Judah's revival, Jews scattered throughout the Greek and Roman empires and many of them had more cultural attachment to cities such as Rome and Alexandria. Jerusalem wavered in significance over the centuries and finally attained its greatest power as a city for Jewish populations during the time that the Roman empire controlled Palestine. Rome installed Herod, a Roman citizen, as King of Judea. Herod married a Jewish woman and followed Jewish traditions.

There is no question that the Jewish people had a powerful presence in ancient Palestine and that Jerusalem is a significant and important part of their thought and culture. Certainly they should be guaranteed that they will be permitted to walk on the Temple Mount and contemplate their spiritual beliefs. What is troubling is Israel's approach, its lack of recognition that the institutions that dominate the Old City have changed. Jerusalem of today's world is not the Jerusalem of the ancient Hebrew world. The troubling approach raises troubling questions:

(1) If Judaism has no standing monuments on their Harim al-Sharif, why does Israel want political sovereignty over the Holy City?
(2) Would Israel modify the present integrity of the Harim al Sharif and possibly try to construct another Temple?


The conflicting rights of control cannot be resolved by religious and historical documents. The competing parties won't accept any documents that conflict with their own beliefs. The most prominently used means to resolve a disputed situation are the legal means.

In all accords, political sovereignty is considered the major sovereignty. Political sovereignty should be based upon property ownership, legal deeds, years of communities, and time of residing in those communities. The religious aspect must be considered, but it is not the principal consideration. Religion should not be used to mask the major considerations. Myths should not replace historical realities. Rhetoric should not drown out the obvious. Inadequate guides in the Camp David negotiations and the volatile rhetoric that followed the unsigned accords are responsible for the failure of the "peace process" and the violence that followed the disagreements.

october, 2000