Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Jerusalem, the Uncompromisable

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Jerusalem, the Uncompromisable

Article excerpt

Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian chairman Yasser Arafat had long known they could solve most of their problems - the creation of a Palestinian state, the return of Palestinian refugees, the acceptance of Jewish settlements. And, when everything else had been negotiated, there would be the last issue, the ultimate issue - Jerusalem.

That Jerusalem was even on the table at Camp David was something of a miracle. That Israel would concede a political foothold in East Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital seemed a miracle beyond reach. This wasn't merely a matter of municipal boundaries, but involved a clash of religions, of ancient traditions. A symbol, perhaps. An icon, perhaps - but with power to change history.

"If I forget thee, oh Jerusalem," said the biblical psalmists, "let my right hand forget her cunning." According to Jewish tradition, Jerusalem was where God made Adam, where Abraham agreed to sacrifice Isaac. According to Muslim tradition, Jerusalem was where the prophet Muhammed flew in on a winged steed. And to Christians, not to be forgotten, Jerusalem was where Jesus was crucified, buried, and rose from the dead at the place where the Church of the Holy Sepulcher now stands.

At Camp David, the parties did their best to address Jerusalem as a political issue. Mr. Arafat demanded a location in East Jerusalem as a capital of the gestating Palestinian state. Israel was ready to let Palestinians run municipal services in the Old City under the label of "autonomy," perhaps even "shared sovereignty. …

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