May 11, 2010 2:04 pm ET
Former New York Mayor Ed Koch has an excellent idea for resolving the issue of Jerusalem.
Writing at the Huffington Post, Koch draws on his 12 years of experience as mayor to devise a strategy that makes a lot of sense. (This is the first time I have ever lauded Koch on any issue related to the Middle East.)
I believe there is a way to keep Jerusalem unified. I am talking not only of the old walled city, which is a very small part of the city of Jerusalem, but the whole city, east, west, north and south.
His plan would work like this.
East Jerusalem -- overwhelmingly Palestinian but now also populated by Israeli Jews -- would become the Palestinian capital. All the residents of East Jerusalem, regardless of community or faith, would have the option of choosing the state to which they will owe allegiance. Jews, Christians and Muslims -- anywhere in the city -- would opt for Israeli or Palestinian citizenship.
And all Jerusalemites would get two votes. One would be for mayor of the city and one would be for members of parliament in their chosen respective state.
Jerusalem is now roughly two-thirds Jewish and one-third Muslim. The Christian population is about 2 percent. All under the proposal would be voting for a single city council and one mayor. Based on the current population, the mayor would be Jewish. If the demographics changed over the years in favor of the Muslims, a Muslim mayor could be elected.
New York City with its model of five borough presidents is a good model to emulate with Muslim and Jewish areas electing borough presidents to respond to the local needs of the inhabitants.
Koch's idea eliminates the possibility that Jerusalem would be divided. It would not be, except in the sense that New York City is divided into Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.
At the same time it enables East Jerusalem to be established as capital of the Palestinian state, while protecting the right of East Jerusalem's Jews to essentially ignore its status as Palestinian and remain full-fledged Israeli citizens. Naturally, Arabs and Jews would be able to live in any part of the city while retaining their status as both citizens of Jerusalem and of their respective Israeli or Palestinian state.
Koch also argues for moving the issue of Jerusalem to the beginning of the negotiations agenda.
Instead of putting the hot-button issue of Jerusalem last on the agenda, the issue should be addressed first. If the Jerusalem question is solved, everything else should fall into place more easily.
This is such a good idea that I nominate Koch for Mayor of Jerusalem. He seems to understand, as the current leaders of the municipality do not, that Jerusalem belongs to the people who live there -- all of them.
On Thursday, Yedioth Achronoth, the mass circulation Israeli daily, revealed that the foreign ministry was sending the word out to Israeli diplomats worldwide that the best way to "get" South African Justice Richard Goldstone for writing his Gaza war crimes report was to link him to the apartheid regime.
A Yedioth "investigation" produced some half-baked evidence that Goldstone was implicated in the crimes of apartheid and, almost in passing, noted "that an [Israeli] Foreign Ministry official referred to the investigation as 'explosive PR material.' Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman plans to instruct his office to send the information published in the newspaper to all of Israel's representatives in the world to be used in their PR activities."
Within 24 hours, Jeff Goldberg, Alan Dershowitz, and Jon Chait jumped to it, repeating the Israeli charge.
But then, yesterday, Foreign Affairs magazine's senior editor, Sasha Polakow Suransky, took the Israeli foreign ministry's meme and blew it sky high on Foreign Policy's blog.
Polakow-Suransky, the leading academic expert on Israeli/South African relations (and author of "The Unspoken Alliance: Israel's Secret Relationship With Apartheid South Africa"), provided a timely reminder: while Justice Goldstone's record on apartheid was outstanding enough for Nelson Mandela to put him in charge of investigating crimes of the apartheid regime, Israel had been (to the very end) the apartheid regime's closest ally and arms supplier. It's all here.
Can it be that Avigdor Lieberman, Jeff Goldberg, Alan Dershowitz, and the rest of the neocons care more deeply about apartheid than Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and the African National Congress (ANC)? Who knew? (Of course, Lieberman favors apartheid...but perhaps only in the West Bank.)
Meanwhile, political scientist Stephen Walt offers a devastating "counter-factual" that will leave Chait, Goldberg, and Dershowitz speechless:
If you're coming in late, the basic story is that Israeli newspapers and government officials have been spreading the story that Goldstone (who is Jewish) condemned a number of black activists to death when he was a judge in apartheid-era South Africa. Never mind that 1) it was his job as a judge to uphold the (admittedly harsh) laws of his country, 2) he is widely acknowledged as having played a positive role in the transition to majority rule, 3) Israel was one of white South Africa's staunchest allies, which makes these pious denunciations of apartheid absurdly hypocritical, and 4) none of this tells you a darn thing about either the contents or the merits of the report on Gaza that bears his name. [...]
So here's my counterfactual. Suppose Goldstone's U.N. report had exonerated Israel's conduct during the Gaza War, and placed most if not all of the blame on Hamas. Suppose further that a prominent Palestinian group had then delved into Goldstone's past and tried to discredit the report by disclosing the same information about him. Do you think Israeli officials and/or media pundits like Jonathan Chait, Jeffrey Goldberg, and Alan Dershowitz would have rushed to pile on Goldstone, as they have leapt to do over the past few days? Isn't it more likely that they would have rallied to his defense, and denounced those unscrupulous Palestinians for trying to confuse the issue? Do these guys really think they are fooling anyone?
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