Modeling Jerusalem's Holy Basin on West Berlin

Kobi Michael, a researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, believes former West Berlin might be applicable to the Holy Basin in Jerusalem as a model in municipal administration.

Kobi Michael, a researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, believes former West Berlin might be applicable to the Holy Basin in Jerusalem as a model in municipal administration.

After East Germany and West Germany were established in 1949, West Berlin became a West German enclave within East Germany. Responsibility for the city's autonomous administration continued to be assumed - in accordance with occupation accords dating to the post-war period - by three Western allies, the United States, Britain and France.

The three powers had no interest in interfering with the city's administration - they set up a moderate occupation regime, and delegated authorities to the local government. At first, they transferred limited authority to West Berlin, which was divided into administrative districts. Later, this authority was expanded, and eventually included policing and law making authorities.

West Berlin had a legislature with 200 representatives, who also elected the 18 senators who ran the government. All of this was headed by a mayor - for most of these years, it was the legendary Willy Brandt, who later became Chancellor of West Germany.

"The Holy Basin could also be administered as an autonomous independent entity by an international force," says Michael. "That would be the source of authority and would delegate appropriate functions to Israel and the Palestinians, subject to arrangement or agreement between the parties. Since the international force would be the source of authority, it would be able to issue a ruling in the event of differences of opinion or misunderstandings between the parties. It would be able to prevent stalemate or deterioration or friction."

The conversation with Michael, as with Institute researcher Dr. Moshe Hirsch, preceded tonight's planned discussion at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, sponsored by the Institute and by the Amos Ganor Foundation. The title is "Internationalization, International Involvement and the Jerusalem Question," and additional researchers will take part.

Michael and Hirsch recently published a study, in the framework of the Institute, on "International Involvement in Jerusalem, Possible Alternatives." In it they consider the most serious alternatives for international involvement in Jerusalem. Kobi Michael is a doctoral candidate at the Hebrew University's Swiss Center for Conflict Research, Management and Resolution.

Oslo coordination

During his military service - he is a lieutenant colonel in the army reserves - he was among the founders and commanders of the security coordination and liaison mechanism with the Palestinians, set up under the Oslo Accords. Moshe Hirsch is a senior lecturer in international law at the Hebrew University law school and a deputy dean of the law faculty.

The study by Hirsch and Michael outlines for the first time the boundaries of the "Holy Basin," a term that has been used in the past decade in a somewhat foggy manner, without proper definition. The study also offers a first-ever delineation between situations of international intervention and situations of international involvement.

Interestingly, the study almost completely lacks - and not coincidentally - the word internationalization. "In the correct meaning of the word, internationalization can only be through the United Nations," says Hirsch. "Say the sides agree that the United States set up an observer force here. In the common vernacular, this would surely be called internationalization, but as a jurist, when you say internationalization, you have to ask. `where's the UN?'"

Hirsch adds that internationalization is associated with the UN partition plan of 1947, which refers to the internationalization of Jerusalem - its administration by the UN, through a special international regime, while making it a corpus separatum (separate body). This would be within the general boundaries of Abu Dis on the east, Ein Karem including Motza on the west, Shuafat on the north and Bethlehem on the south.

Israel agreed to the UN resolution, but no one wants to be reminded of this today. The word "internationalization" now has a very negative connotation, Michael admits.

"When you say internationalization, it is conceived as something which on the face of it is opposed to Israeli interests, and which diverts the discourse from its more important course." Instead the two researchers use the terms "international intervention" and "international involvement." Nor do they like using the term corpus separatum, "simply because of the strong association with the partition resolution," says Hirsch.

The Holy Basin, Michael says, has until now been defined as an area that includes the Old City or parts of it, and several nearby sites, which are considered holy by followers of different religions. He suggests a clear outline for the boundaries of the Holy Basin:

On the west, it runs along the length of the Old City wall until its southwest corner.

On the south, it runs the course of the Ben-Hinnom Valley to the area south of the wall around the Haceldama (Field of Blood) Monastery; then northward to the eastern fence of Peter in Gallicantu Church, including the graveyards in its vicinity; from there to the southern wall of the Old City until the Southern Wall excavations (the Ophel Archaeological Gardens); from there to the Jewish cemetery that borders Silwan until the Ras al-Amud Road and along its southern side, so that the cemetery on the Mount of Olives would be included within the Basin.

On the east, along the length of the Jewish burial plots on the Mount of Olives to the section of the wall around the Russian Church of the Ascension, Makassed Hospital, around whose western side the boundary would run, leaving the hospital out of the basin; from there along the walls of Viri Galilei, the holiday residence of the Greek Orthodox patriarch.

On the north, from Viri Galilei to the northeastern corner of the Old City wall (the Stork Tower) and along the wall to the Schmidt Girls' College on Nablus Road, until the Damascus Gate in the Old City wall, and along the length of the wall until the Jaffa Street corner.

Reduced version

Michael terms this route the "reduced version," or the Holy Basin core. All told, it measures 2,210 dunams (552 acres). He has also prepared three alternative additions for expanding the "reduced version" subject to the conditions and interests of the parties.

One addition is the City of David (194 dunams); the second is the Silwan Hill of Evil Counsel area (41 dunams); and the third is the St. George compound (57 dunams). Including these three additions, the Holy Basin would encompass 2,502 dunams. Michael adds that another possible alternative would only include the area of the Old City. This could be the easiest alternative to implement, he says, although he doubts it expresses even the most basic interests of the parties.

There were three primary considerations that guided him in outlining the boundaries of the Holy Basin - creation of a unified topographical geographic unit; the inclusion of a maximum of sites holy to the three religions containing a minimum of population; preservation of access routes to the Holy Basin, so that Israelis would be able to reach it from the western part of the city, and Palestinians of the city from the eastern side.

Hirsch and Michael decided to discuss alternatives to international involvement in the Holy Basin in Jerusalem because there is now a growing international trend toward involvement in local conflicts. This trend is reinforced by the violent conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, in which the sides demonstrate a lack of mutual trust and are unable to reach any settlement on their own. The two researchers differentiate between international intervention and international involvement.

Accord by coercion

International intervention takes places without asking for the consent of the paries in dispute - coerced settlement, for example. In the recent past there was the NATO bombing of Yugoslav targets in the spring of 1999 to bring to an end the violence of the Serb army against residents of Kosovo. Earlier there was the UN's appointment of several countries in the winter of 1991 to take "all essential measures" to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi occupation.

Conversely, international involvement is with the consent of the sides. In the opinion of Hirsch and Michael, in the case of the Holy Basin in particular and the Middle East in general, international intervention would not be used, only international involvement. After discussing various alternatives for international involvement in the Holy Basin, Hirsch reduced them to four.

First would be an international force authorized to carry out surveillance and monitoring, and one state would direct its work and supervise it.

Second, the international force would be authorized to carry out the functions of surveillance and monitoring, and a multi-national mechanism would supervise its activities.

Third, the force would be authorized to carry out functions of surveillance, monitoring and administration, and one state would direct its work and supervise it.

Fourth, the force would be authorized to carry out functions of surveillance, monitoring and administration, and a multi-national mechanism would supervise its activities.

Based on the manner in which the various alternatives are presented in the study, one gets the impression that Hirsch sides mainly with the second alternative - surveillance and monitoring, which is minimal involvement, by a multi-national force.

Ideally, Israel would prefer surveillance and monitoring by a single country, the United States. But it may be assumed that the Palestinians would object to the United States and would propose another country, and thus the first alternative would be dropped, in favor of the second.

However, Hirsch says he is deterred from recommending any one alternative, because the situation is still fluid. "It may be that the sides would want to impart to the force not only surveillance and monitoring authorities, but also authorities of administration of a specific small section, such as, for instance, the Holy Sepulcher Church," he says.

Or maybe, given the increased dominance of the United States, the Palestinians would not have any other choice within two or three years but to agree to American surveillance and monitoring.

The study examines various models of international involvement, such as UNDOF, the UN Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights; the MFO, the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai Peninsula; and the UN forces in Bosnia, East Timor and in Kosovo.

Michael feels that, "in operational aspects, in terms of the way an international force operates, you can draw many conclusions from them, especially negative ones, of what should not be done, or how things could be done differently."

Incidentally, Michael dismisses the Jerusalem chapter of the Geneva Accords, because it makes a territorial partition of the Holy Basin. "Our working assumption is that the Holy Basin cannot be partitioned," he says. "As soon as you partition it, you harm its vitality and its essence as a single entity that possesses a certain character."