A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Jerusalem Old City Initiative

This morning MEI served as host to the presentation at the Mayflower Hotel of the Jerusalem Old City Initiative, based at the University of Windsor in Canada and including Israelis, Palestinians, and others. Our event announcement is here; their website is here.

This is another attempt, along the lines of the Geneva Accord (and involving some of the same participants) to offer possible futures for Jerusalem, so often seen as the insoluble kernel at the heart of the conflict. Unlike Geneva, which envisioned dividing the city, including the Old City, this Canadian initiative envisions a "Special Regime" for the walled city, one that does not override the claims to sovereignty of Israel and a Palestinian state, but defers it. It is not, they emphasize, the corpus separatum of some previous plans.

Even those who prepared this plan, which is quite detailed both as to governance and security issues, admit to some reservations; still, as they were quick to note, such plans provide potential blueprints for that future day when all the issues except the Old City have been resolved.

The proposal they handed out today runs 130 pages and consists of the documents which can also be found, separately, on their website linked above. I won't presume to summarize because, like the Geneva Accord, this is a detailed study that deserves to be assessed in full. Like Geneva, it is easier for academics and diplomats to reach agreement than the political actors, but if there is ever going to be a breakthrough (and admittedly the pessimists are growing in numbers lately, as shown by Aaron Miller's recent essay), this kind of creative thinking is going to be necessary. It may not be this plan, but unconventional thinking is always helpful.

I'm not going to try to summarize the morning's discussions; when the podcast (and eventually I think video) are up, I'll link to those; meanwhile, there's a lot of material available through the Initiative's website.

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