Magazine article The American Prospect

The Supreme Solution

Magazine article The American Prospect

The Supreme Solution

Article excerpt

Who will control the holy sites of Jerusalem? Israelis? Palestinians? Both?

It's an old conundrum--and, as the latest round of violence sparked by a dispute over the Temple Mount area suggested once again, an intractable one. Now another answer is emerging. How about none of the above? Specifically, how about giving up on the idea of control by earthly inhabitants and putting the land in the hands of a higher power?

The idea of "divine sovereignty" over the holy sites was advanced this summer in a report by the well-regarded Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies. The report, which was heralded by some as a creative solution and derided by others, calls for certain administrative matters to be worked out on the ground but for ultimate "ownership" to be left to the heavens.

Though it may sound unrealistic, the idea has been catching on in diplomatic circles, so much so that it was recently incorporated into the formal U.S. negotiating strategy. Reports from the round of talks held in New York during the UN millennium summit detail a new proposal that would separate the Temple Mount into three parts: the mosques, which would fall under Palestinian sovereignty; the western wall, which would remain under Israeli control; and the remaining area, including the outer wall and network of underground tunnels, which would be placed under "divine sovereignty."

The concept shifts the framework of the debate away from an unending struggle for ownership to an acknowledgement that the holy sites are outside the realm of property, belonging to no one and everyone, or, in the words of Menachem Klein, co-author of the Jerusalem Institute's report, "'neither ours nor yours' and 'mine as well as yours. …

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