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Jerusalem: Holy City, Open City

Giovanni Sale, SJ - La Civiltà Cattolica - Tue, Feb 11th 2020

The year 2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. The United Nations resolution of November 29, 1947, had established that two independent and sovereign states would be created from the Palestinian territory, ex British Mandate: one Jewish and one Palestinian. This resolution created the so-called “partition plan” that met with opposition from Arab countries. It was never actually implemented. On this anniversary, U.S. President Donald Trump wanted the U.S. Embassy – as he had unilaterally declared on December 6, 2017[1] – to move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Besides having strong symbolic significance, this decision is also politically relevant as it goes against the established practice followed by the majority of the international community in this delicate matter. Its members prefer to comply with the various resolutions of the U.N. that aim to maintain the status quo for East Jerusalem while waiting for an agreed decision.

It should also be acknowledged that the following day, May 15, the Arab world recalled the 70th anniversary of the so-called Nakba (The Catastrophe). This commemorates the memory of the expulsion – after the 1948-49 Arab-Israeli war – of around 500,000 (according to others, more than 700,000) Palestinians from their houses and their land, forcing them to seek asylum in neighboring countries.[2] This event was commemorated, as happens every year, in the Gaza Strip with several protests beginning March 30 at the Israeli border.[3] This provoked clashes between the two sides: on several occasions the Israeli military opened fire on demonstrators who were trying to cross the border fence, claiming the lives of 49 people, including two journalists, and wounding at least another 1,500.

These events come at a delicate moment for the Israeli government, committed as it is to keeping Syria from becoming “conquered territory” of the Iranian Pasdaran and Shiite Hezbollah, from where the security of Israel could be threatened. According to analysts, this explains the frequent shelling and bombing of Iranian military targets in Syria – usually unclaimed – conducted in recent months by Israeli artillery and air force.

In any case, the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem certainly has historic relevance. Events of the last decade show how the problem of the Holy City and the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are inexorably linked and interdependent, and this fact can be neither ignored nor underestimated.

Furthermore, Trump’s decision to move the embassy has had the unintended consequence of returning the focus of the international community and of public opinion on to the question of Jerusalem, following a number of years in which it had mostly fallen off the radar while concerns focused on ISIS and Islamist terrorism.[4] In fact, in their political propaganda the “new jihadists” – unlike al-Qaeda – had downgraded the Palestinian question (which for decades had agitated the Arab world), thinking that it was no longer fundamental for the unity of the Muslim world.


Jerusalem: holy city to the three monotheistic religions

Jerusalem (in Arabic, al-Quds) is a holy city for the three great Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – with about three billion adherents worldwide. For the Jews, it is the place where their temple, the dwelling of God’s presence on earth, was located. The Romans completely razed it in the first century A.D. and the entire Jewish people were forced into diaspora. Every time the Jews were exiled from their homeland, they dreamt of a return to Jerusalem; and this is the origin of the expression that the diaspora Jews have exchanged for centuries at the end of Passover: “Next year, in Jerusalem!” reaffirming the centrality of this city in their lives.

Jerusalem is also a holy city for Christians of all confessions. It was the place where many decisive events of Jesus’ life happened. This city has some of the most important places of Christian worship and pilgrimage, such as, for example, the Constantinian basilica of the Resurrection (the Holy Sepulcher), which is today divided among the Orthodox, Catholics, Armenian, Coptic and other Christian communions. After the painful and controversial experience of the Crusades, the “Custody of the Holy Land” was established in the 14th century with the recognition of the Sultan as having the task of safeguarding all the Holy Places, not only those in Jerusalem. The Franciscan Friars are still responsible for this internationally renowned ministry.

For Muslims worldwide, both Sunni and Shiite, Jerusalem is the third holy city, after Mecca and Medina. It is the city from where the prophet Mohammed – according to medieval tradition – ascended to the heavens to talk to God (the precise location being where today is found the Mosque of Omar or the Dome of the Rock). In this place is one of the oldest and most venerated mosques of Islam, known as “the furthest,” or al-Aqsa.

All these places, full of great religious significance for the three Abrahamic faiths – something unique in the world – occupy an area of no more than one square kilometer. Two of these sites, those revered by the Jews and Muslims, are in the same physical space, the great Temple Mount. Observant Jews are forbidden to enter the most central part of the Temple, the Holy of Holies; as its exact position is unknown, this prohibition covers the entire plateau.

For their part, in past centuries Muslims have extended to the whole Temple Mount the official area of the sanctuary al-Haram al-sharif (“the noble sanctuary”). The only part remaining for Jewish veneration is the so-called “Western wall” or “Wailing Wall” (which was a retaining wall dating to the Second Temple period), in front of which on the occasion of the Six Day War of 1976 (when the Israelis occupied the majority of East Jerusalem), a large piazza was built to allow worship, eliminating a dilapidated Arab neighborhood. Not far from this place is the “Via Dolorosa” (Way of the Cross), which leads to the Church of the Resurrection.

Due to the importance of Jerusalem for the three religions, what happens in this city has international repercussions. The smallest error in managing the sacred places can lead to severe conflicts, as has happened in the recent past between Arabs and Israelis. Jerusalem is like a powder keg that could explode at any moment, destroying a status quo that has been both accepted and challenged by the communities living there. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not be solved until a shared solution on Jerusalem can be reached.

Yet in its political and ideological propaganda, Zionism – which since the end of the 19th century has inspired the migration of Jews from the diaspora to Palestine with the goal of building there an “authentically Jewish” state – has marginalized Jerusalem and its status as a “holy city.” Zionism was a Euro-centric and secular movement that espoused the idealism of the Left and considered Jerusalem a relic of the past, a “bigoted, superstitious, and inefficient city” far from the commercial centers of the Middle East, and surrounded by an arid and resource-poor territory.

It should also be remembered that the European immigrants, with their own ideas of progress and civilization – sometimes calling themselves socialists, sometimes liberals – brought to the new country their religious and sectarian fanaticism (which usually considers the ghetto as a fortress), and militaristic nationalism with all its pseudo-imperialistic trappings. Israeli writer Amos Oz also adds: “Meanwhile, it was the immigrants from the East (Sephardic Jews and others) who brought with them an ancient tradition of moderation, of relative religious tolerance, and the habit of living as good neighbors even with those who do not look like you.”[5]

Jerusalem and the foundation of the State of Israel

When, on November 29, 1947, with Resolution 181 the U.N. approved the plan to partition Palestine (that up until then had been under the British Mandate) into two autonomous and independent states – one Arab and one Jewish – the Zionist leaders of that time hurried to accept the plan of the United Nations. On May 14, 1948, in a room of the museum in Tel Aviv – which became the capital of the new nation-state – David Ben Gurion declared the independence of the “Jewish State.” In this solemn declaration, Jerusalem – the city that was always invoked by the pious Jews of the diaspora – was not mentioned even once. The State of Israel therefore was born without reference to Jerusalem.

As opposed to the Jews, the Arab states did not accept the “partition plan,” thinking that it was a violation of the inalienable and non-negotiable rights of Palestinians who had been living in that land for centuries. With regard to Jerusalem, given the difficulties presented by its eventual division, the partition plan of 1947 affirmed that it should be instituted as a corpus separatum under a special international regime to be administered by the United Nations.[6] Furthermore, its territory was to include small, neighboring villages such as Bethlehem.

Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, in order not to antagonize observant Jews, claimed that the loss of Jerusalem (a city he had no love for) was the price to pay for the foundation of a Jewish state. However, it would soon be partially occupied, manu militari, by the Israeli army. This happened in May 1948 when the Arab states bordering Israel (Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and even Iraq) declared war. The war was won decisively by the nascent state, which seized the opportunity to “expand” the borders indicated by the partition plan to its own advantage, incorporating a part of Jerusalem, and involving the “liberation” of some areas of the country from the presence of Palestinian residents. (This is the origin of the unsolvable refugee problem.)

The armistice agreements of 1949 between Israel and the Arab states divide the city of Jerusalem into two parts through the so-called “Green Line”: the western part (West Jerusalem) assigned to Israel, while the eastern part (East Jerusalem), including the Old City, the Temple Mount, and the Holy Sites, was entrusted to Jordan.

The U.N. did not recognize these agreements and maintained the borders established in the partition plan. However, in the following years, both Jordan and Israel preferred to leave Jerusalem divided. As with cities divided in two by conflict – for example, Berlin and Belfast – so too in Jerusalem the division was perceived by all as a rending apart. A city that had previously been experienced as a unique reality, complex but complementary, was suddenly torn apart, both in a material sense as well as culturally and spiritually: “Jerusalem,” writes a religious man living there, to his brother “leaves a sadness in my memory. The city is surreal as the division is a kind of evil mechanism placed in the heart of the night by a demon, as if it were an obscene prank. But it is no joke, and the cruelty is highlighted by walls, fences, barriers, rifles and soldiers.”[7]

Pope Pius XII, in two encyclicals – In multiplicibus, in 1948, and Redemptoris nostri, in 1949 – called for the restoration of an “international regime” in the Holy City, with the aim to “guarantee the protection of the sanctuaries,” ensure freedom to access the holy sites, and respect the customs and religious traditions of that place. This plea was not accepted by the parties involved. On the contrary, it was opposed even by other Christian confessions present in the Holy Land as they were afraid that the Holy See wanted somehow to guarantee its own privileged status over them.[8]

From that moment, Jerusalem fully entered the history of the State of Israel, becoming a constitutive element for both political and religious reasons. Prime Minister Ben Gurion, in response to the proposal of the U.N. to internationalize the city, was determined to move the Knesset (the Israeli parliament) to Jerusalem in 1950 so that the annexation would be definitive.

Only in 1980 after the unification of the city following the Six Day War did the Israeli parliament vote in a “Fundamental Law” on the constitutional level that declared Jerusalem the “complete and undivided” capital of the Jewish state. Through Resolution 478, the U.N. declared this law “null and void” since it violated international law and thwarted the establishment of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. This is why the international community continued to keep their embassies in Tel Aviv and refused to officially recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel.[9]

Jerusalem and the Six Day War

With regard to the more recent history of the State of Israel and the city of Jerusalem, the Six Day War is extremely important.[10] It was in fact this war – fought over less than a week (June 5-10, 1967) between the powerful and motivated Israeli military and those of the bordering Arab states, which had more troops but were less equipped – that redefined the borders established by the United Nations, successively extended in favor of Israel since the war in 1948. Following these events, Israel occupied the West Bank (where the Palestinian state was to have been born) and East Jerusalem, taking them from Jordan. It went on to take the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza strip from Egypt, and deprived Syria of the Golan Heights. This “cursed victory,” a term taken from the recent title of a book by Ahron Bregman,[11] was the beginning of unending questions, disputes, failed agreements, bloody intifadas and inexpressible suffering for the two peoples – both Palestinian and Israeli – that were living next to each other and against each other.

Israeli troops occupied the Old City and the Temple Mount on June 7, 1967. On that occasion, chief military rabbi General Shlomo Goren was one of the first to run to the place to bring the Sefer Torah and to sound the shofar. He also suggested that General Uzi Narkiss – according to the General’s testimony – blow up the Mosque of Omar.

Moshe Dayan, the Minister of Defense, restored order at the holy place and prevented further violence first of all by ordering the removal of the Israeli flags that had been placed on top of the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque, and commanding the paratroopers to clear the Temple Mount.[12] He restored to the Muslim militias the custody of the place: in fact, eight of the nine gates that access the Temple Mount were returned to the waqf (custodian of the Muslim holy sites); the Israelis kept possession of the ninth entrance, the so-called “Mughrabi Gate” (Gate of the Moors), where a police station was erected.[13]

Traditionalist and ultra-orthodox Jews opposed this decision as they wanted to take possession of the Temple Mount in view of a possible construction of a Third Temple. In order to discourage attempts of this kind, a few days later the rabbinate of Israel prohibited entrance to the Temple Mount – in virtue of Jewish Law that forbade all Jews from setting foot in the Holy of Holies whose exact location was unknown. From that moment onward, entrance to the Temple Mount was effectively restricted to Muslims, tourists, and non-religious Jews.

In November of the same year, the U.N. Security Council approved Resolution 242, which established that Israel was supposed to restore all occupied territories in exchange for a lasting peace. This should have bound Israel to keep the status quo in the Territories, but Israel did not implement it. On the contrary, it expressed the determination to extend its sovereignty in the West Bank and above all to East Jerusalem, expelling the Arab population as much as possible.[14]

The events of 1967 also caused an important change in the politics of the Holy See toward the Holy Land. Paul VI abandoned the goal of the internationalization of Jerusalem, which was considered unrealistic, and in some speeches promoted an “an internationally guaranteed statute,” which had the goal of safeguarding the freedom of worship and conservation of the Holy Sites, “with particular attention to the historical and religious physiognomy of Jerusalem.”[15]

Starting from June 1967, Israel occupied most of East Jerusalem: in this way, the so-called “Green Line” lost much of its significance. The new administrative boundaries of the city were thereby extended to the eastern part, enlarging its surface area from 38 square kilometers to 108 square kilometers.[16] This area excluded the quarters that were more densely populated by Palestinians since they were considered difficult to administer and manage, to say nothing of their welfare needs. Instead, several areas were included that were then uninhabited, surrounding the Old City, and destined to be transformed into urban green areas. In recent decades, several Israeli settlements have been established on these lands, and they are real “settlement cities,” sometimes with more than 50,000 inhabitants. Many Jerusalemites now live there.

As early as 1968 the municipal authorities gave the first permits for the construction of new modern Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. One of the strongest supporters of the strategy to make Jerusalem a Jewish city – in defiance of U.N. resolutions – through residential construction, was the mayor at the time, Teddy Kollek. In this way, the city would remain eternally in the hands of Israel and would not have been included in an eventual Palestinian state. Both right- and left-wing governments followed this approach in successive decades – and not only in Jerusalem.

This politics of annexation followed by Israel for East Jerusalem was strongly condemned by the U.N. and by the European Union, which considered it an obstacle to the peace process. One of its declarations denounced these changes: “By the new settlements, the building of the border fence, building demolition, restriction of permits and repeated closing of Palestinian institutions, the Jewish presence in East Jerusalem is reinforced; meanwhile the Arab community weakens and urban development by Palestinians is prevented, and East Jerusalem is separated from the rest of the West Bank.”[17]

Today it is not at all easy for the Jewish people to buy land, build houses or do anything else in East Jerusalem. However, this can be done through forcing (in various ways) the Arab residents to abandon their property, or through the municipal authorities issuing ordinances of demolition with regard to dilapidated, dangerous or illegal buildings. It is forbidden to sell houses or lands to Israelis according to a fatwa (religious ruling) of 1925, reiterated in 1997. Whoever is found guilty of this “delict” is expelled from the community and is forbidden a religious funeral, nor can they be buried with other believers. Arafat himself ordered his collaborators to use heavy-handed methods in discouraging the sale of property to the Jews, and the Palestinian Minister of Justice proposed the death penalty for this “crime.”

Today in Jerusalem there are around 880,000 residents, of which 63 percent are Israeli and 37 percent are Palestinian. In the eastern part of the city, which was annexed after the war of 1967, there are about 300 Palestinians. Having refused Israeli citizenship in 1967 in order to delegitimize the policy of the “fait accompli” of unification, these people are considered “permanent residents.” They pay taxes and enjoy rights reserved to Israelis, but do not have the right to vote in legislative elections.

According to many observers, the principal problem that Jerusalem will have to face in the future is a demographic one (that is, keeping Israel a Jewish state). In this regard, in some environments people speak of a “demographic bomb” through which, in the end, the Palestinians will be able to defeat their enemies.[18] In fact, the rate of growth of Palestinians in recent years has been significantly higher than that of the Jewish people. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Jewish people benefited from the arrival of many Ashkenazi Jews, mostly observant, with many children, who came from Russia and other former Soviet countries. This immigration has now ceased.

Jerusalem from the Oslo Accords to the Camp David Summit

The “Question of Jerusalem” – its partition and ensuing contradictions – contributed in recent decades to the increasing conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. Recent history teaches that it is not possible to reach a peace agreement between the two peoples without first defining the status of the Holy City. Several attempts by the international community under the leadership of the United States to solve the Arab-Palestinian problem have tried to set aside, at least provisionally, the problem of Jerusalem, despite knowing that success of the peace process would then depend on the equitable resolution of this question, which religious groups of both sides were monitoring closely, sometimes blackmailing governments and other times baiting the population.

The most serious attempt to solve the very complicated Israeli-Palestinian question, upon which peace in the Middle East depends, was without any doubt that of the so-called “Oslo Accords” in the summer of 1993. Mediated by U.S. President Bill Clinton, its protagonists were Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat. It should be kept in mind that these accords, even if they were criticized by both sides, established fundamental starting points for a peace process and made possible the coexistence of the two peoples. For example, in the protocols it was established that Israel withdraw from some areas densely populated by Palestinians, such as the Gaza strip, and from other zones of the West Bank (indicated in the protocol as Zone A, while for others, indicated as Zone B and C, there were different rules). Furthermore, the right to Palestinian self-government was established in these areas through the creation of the Palestinian National Authority.

There was a provision that five years after the Israeli withdrawal there could be negotiation of a definitive agreement that would have looked at more delicate problems, such as the question of Jerusalem, that of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and the return of Palestinian refugees. These problems have no easy solutions.[19] Furthermore, the two parties signed letters of mutual acknowledgment. This is without any doubt one of the most positive aspects of the Accords. The Israeli government committed to recognize the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, while the latter recognized the right of the State of Israel to exist and renounced violence and terrorism as instruments of political strategy.

According to the Palestinian activist Noura Erakat, the Accords were not based on international law – even if they promised to respect the U.N. resolutions on the issues (such as No. 242) – but simply on negotiated agreements which were given the force of law. In her opinion the consequences of these agreements for Palestinians were disastrous. “The Oslo Accords,” she writes, “became a permanent structure that led to the current situation: a barrier through which Israel confiscated 13 percent of the West Bank lands. An aggressive policy of ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem, with the objective of reducing the Palestinian populations and to keep a Jewish majority.”[20]

It should also be remembered that, on the basis of the Oslo Accords, Israel has the military and administrative control of the entire Zone C, which covers 59 percent of the West Bank territories. As a matter of fact, the Oslo process was more favorable to the Israelis than to the Palestinians. Its gradual approach was without doubt unfavorable to the Palestinians and allowed Israel to benefit from the situation.

Afterward, the only peace talks to treat directly the situation of Jerusalem was the summit held at Camp David from July 11-24, 2000. However, these talks failed. Again these negotiations were strongly supported and mediated by President Clinton. For the first time, Israelis accepted the idea of discussing – even with pressure coming from religious parties to the contrary – the partition of Jerusalem with the Arabs who were living together with them, abandoning the position that had been firmly held up to that point, and conceding to Palestinians a sort of administrative autonomy over part of East Jerusalem.

Negotiations started to get more complicated when they discussed the Old City, and in particular the Temple Mount. One of the suggested proposals was to divide the Old City in two, entrusting to the Israelis the Jewish and Armenian quarters, and to the Palestinians the Muslim and Christian quarters. Besides not satisfying either of the two parties, this solution alarmed the Churches and Christians present in the Holy Land. They signed and sent to Camp David a letter in which they protested against the division of the Old City and asked instead for an “internationally guaranteed special status.”

While Israeli and American negotiators wanted to treat one problem at a time with the aim of finding concrete solutions for each question debated, the Palestinians asked that the negotiations start with the definition of general principles. In particular, Arafat asserted that the negotiation would have gone further if the Israeli party (represented by Prime Minister Ehud Barak) recognized Palestinian sovereignty over East Jerusalem. The outcomes of the Camp David summit were based precisely on the relations between the principles of “sovereignty” and “functional authority.” In fact, the Israelis proposed to entrust autonomous management of the Arab-majority neighborhoods of East Jerusalem to the Palestinians and to bring their capital to the populous neighborhood of Abu Dis. In return, the municipal borders of the city would have been extended to the Greater Jerusalem Model.[21]

Concerning the Temple Mount and the mosque, it was recommended that they be entrusted (with the right to raise a flag) to the PNA. Arafat said that he was ready to discuss the delicate matter (under the scrutiny of the entire Arab world) only on the condition that the Palestinians gained sovereignty of the entire Temple Mount except for the Western Wall. On his side, Barak suggested that one part of the Temple Mount be dedicated to the Jews for their worship. Arafat rejected the proposal. The Americans proposed a “vertical partition of sovereignty” so that Palestinians could have had the surface of the Temple Mount where the mosques were located and the Israelis the underground. However, the Arabs refused this solution as well. The Israelis, in any case, did not fear the unshakeable stance of the Arabs and even in the following years continued their archeological excavations under and on the side of the Temple Mount.

Upon returning from Camp David, Arafat was welcomed in Ramallah as a victor, for having resisted the joint pressures of Israel and the United States, and for having saved Palestinian honor. Before leaving the presidential palace, he had told Clinton: “The Arab leader has not been born who will give up Jerusalem.” Again the peace process stalled, this time definitively with regard to Jerusalem.

The consequences of the failure of the Camp David Summit were disastrous. In September of the same year the second intifada, called the “Al-Aqsa” intifada, began. (The first had arisen out of a refugee camp in 1987 and led to the Oslo Accords). When the leader of the right-wing Likud party, Ariel Sharon, boldly decided to go for a “simple walk” together with some of his supporters on the Temple Mount and to visit the Israeli excavations of the so-called “Solomon’s Stables” that were under the mosque, Palestinians took this act as a provocation and a profanation of their holy place. The intifada, as is known, lasted five years and claimed more than 5,000 Palestinian and 1,000 Israeli victims.

Another important result of the failure of the Camp David Summit, which still has consequences today, was that subsequently Israeli leaders have decided to apply to Jerusalem a principle that had been experienced for a long time in the West Bank, and partially also in Gaza, which was to “occupy the maximum amount of territory with the minimum amount of Palestinian presence.” After Camp David, it was decided to remodel the city in a way that included the greater part of the Israeli settlements, while keeping out the Arab neighborhoods. This security measure was then reinforced starting from 2002 – in the dark years of the intifada – with the construction of a “dividing barrier” between Israel and the occupied territories, which followed a tortuous tract around Jerusalem of about 150 kilometers and sometimes cut Arab villages in half, modifying the juridical status of thousands of people. Tens of thousands of Palestinians therefore found themselves in the West Bank, even though they had an Israeli identity card.


In recent years, both in Jerusalem and in the Territories, coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians has become difficult and sometimes impossible. More than 400,000 Israelis (the so-called “settlers”), often with religious-political motivations, have moved to the West Bank, where the Palestinian state was to have been established. Today, many political and intellectual observers, even progressives and leftists, now consider the two-state solution to be obsolete and impractical. They suggest a one-state solution for two populations, where all citizens, Jews and Palestinians, enjoy the same civil and political rights. They believe that the old project of a two-state solution nowadays only aims at keeping alive a corrupt political establishment, namely the Palestinian National Authority, which has failed in its objectives and would not have the support of a majority of Palestinians anymore. The international community, above all the U.N., which never recognized the annexation of East Jerusalem and the Territories, reiterates the importance of the two-state solution, where the peoples would live one next to the other in peace and security and within acknowledged boundaries. Pope Francis has spoken in these terms in his annual address to the diplomatic corps.

Now, regardless of the questions linked to a one-state or two-state solution that do not pertain to this study,[22] some sectors of the political and intellectual world, both Israeli and Palestinian, look to Jerusalem (beyond the “cage” of Oslo) as an open, united city, without internal borders, capital of two peoples who live there. That is, a “single and shared” city, where the “entire mosaic of neighborhoods, settlements, colonies, historical suburbs, the Old City and the holy places should represent a unique urban body, in which there is total freedom of movement.”[23] Such a city should have, however, a special status, with a mayor elected by all inhabitants and a municipal council that represents the two communities equally. “Jerusalem,” writes Paola Caridi, “must remain open beyond the several walls that enclose and wound it.”[24] For all people, it should be an “open city”[25] and represent a place of communion and peace, and not of discord and division.

[1] Cf. G. Sale, “Concerning Jerusalem as Capital,” in Civ. Catt. English Edition, April 2018; G. Pani, “La Giordania e Gerusalemme,” in Civ. Catt. 2018 II 257-264.

[2] Our journal published several articles on this topic: Cf. G. Sale, “La fondazione dello Stato di Israele e il problema dei profughi palestinesi,” in Civ. Catt. 2011 I 107-120.

[3] The so-called “Great Return March” started May 30, 2018. It is a protest to claim the right of Palestinians to return to the land from which they had been removed in 1948 by the Israeli military, and also to denounce the blockade imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip in 2007. Cf. A. Ayman, “Tent City nights: Gaza’s dance of resistance unites Palestinians,” in Middle East Eye, April 17, 2018.

[4] Cf. T. Marshall, Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps that Tell you Everything you Need to Know about Global Politics, Elliott and Thompson Ltd, 2016.

[5] Amos Oz, How to Cure a Fanatic, Princeton, 2010.

[6] Cf. D. Neuhaus, “The Catholic Church and the Holy City,” in Civ. Catt. English Edition, March 2018.

[7] P. Caridi, Gerusalemme senza Dio. Ritratto di una città crudele, Milan, Feltrinelli, 2017, 189. (Available in English as P. Caridi, Jerusalem without God: Portrait of a Cruel City, University of Cairo Press, 2017.) For the situation in Jerusalem after the 1948 war see V. Lemire (ed.), Gerusalemme. Storia di una città-mondo, Turin, Einaudi, 2017, 90f.

[8] Cf. P. Pieraccini – E. Dusi, “Gerusalemme: un accordo impossibile?” in Limes, 1/2001, 98. For relations between the Holy See and Jerusalem, cf. D. Neuhaus, “The Catholic Church and the Holy City,” op. cit.

[9] Cf. E. Dusi – P. Pieraccini, “La battaglia per Gerusalemme,” in Limes (, July 13, 2010.

[10] Cf. G. Sale, “Fifty Years after the Six-Day War,” in Civ. Catt. English Edition, July 2017.

[11] Cf. A. Bregman, La vittoria maledetta. Storia di Israele e dei Territori occupati, Turin, Einaudi, 2017.

[12] Cf. B. Morris, Vittime. Storia del conflitto arabo-sionista 1881-2001, Milan, Rizzoli, 2001, 405f.

[13] After the Six Day War, Jordan had to evacuate Jerusalem. However, it retained the right to appoint the Grand Mufti, the religious leader of Jerusalemite Muslims and custodian of the Temple Mount. In 1994 this authority was transferred from Jordan to the Palestinian National Authority following a conflict between these two authorities. The peace treaty signed that year between Israel and Jordan affirmed that “Israel respects the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem. When negotiations on the permanent status take place, Israel will give high priority to the Jordanian historic role in these shrines.” This decision deeply irritated Arafat who, as soon as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem died, immediately decided to appoint a Palestinian, putting him in charge and giving him the keys to the Temple Mount. The Kingdom of Jordan did the same, but their Grand Mufti was in charge only for a short time and without any power. Concerning the role of the Kingdom of Jordan in Jerusalem see G. Pani, “La Giordania e Gerusalemme,” op. cit.

[14] Israel annexed the eastern part of Jerusalem after its military occupation, that is, at the end of June 1967. Afterwards, the U.N. approved two important resolutions (no. 2253 and no. 2254) which condemned the annexation, and asked the State of Israel to abstain from any action which would change the status quo of the city. While the vote of the U.K. was in favor of both resolutions, the U.S., as it had already done in similar situations, abstained, but declared that they were against the territorial expansion of Israel. Neither of the two countries transferred their own embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. See N. Erakat, “Thank you President Trump, you have finally ended US double-speak on Middle East ‘peace’, in Middle East Eye, December 8, 2017.

[15] See D. Neuhaus, “The Catholic Church and the Holy Land,” op. cit.

[16] The population of Jerusalem grew to 263,000, including 197,000 Jews, 55,000 Muslims, and 11,000 Christians. Cf. P. Pieraccini – E. Dusi, “Gerusalemme: un accord impossible?” op. cit.

[17] E. Dusi – P. Pieraccini, “La battaglia per Gerusalemme,” op. cit.

[18] Cf. S. Della Pergola, Israele e Palestina: la forza dei numeri. Il conflitto mediorientale fra demografia e politica, Bologna, il Mulino, 2007, 206. In English, see S. della Pergola, “Israel and Palestine: Population Trends 2017” in Ripplezoo, November 14, 2017.

[19] Cf. V. de Giovannangeli, “Il negoziato impossibile,” in Limes, July 13, 2010.

[20] N. Erakat, “La pace si ferma a Gerusalemme,” op. cit., 19. (See N. Erakat, “Thank you President Trump, you have finally ended US double-speak on Middle East ‘peace’,” in Middle East Eye, December 8, 2017)

[21] Cf. P. Pieraccini – E. Dusi, “Gerusalemme: un accordo impossibile?” op. cit., 109.

[22] For the ongoing debate, cf. C. De Martino, Il nuovo ordine israeliano. Oltre il paradigma dei due Stati, Rome, Castelvecchi, 2017, 19f; N. Chomsky – I. Pappé, Palestina e Israele che fare?, Rome, Fazi, 2015. In favor of a two-state solution, A. Oz, Cari fanatici, op. cit., 87f. “Yes, a compromise between Israel and Palestine. Yes, two states. Partition of this land should become the home of two families,” Ibid., 96.

[23] P. Caridi, Jerusalem without God, op. cit. 191.

[24] Ibid., 189.

[25] This is what Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin says: “Jerusalem should have a special status that would make it an open city” (G. G. Vecchi, “Gerusalemme città di pace, ma solo con il dialogo diretto,” in Corriere della Sera, December 21, 2017).

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