Intensifying calls from both the European Union and the Palestinian Authority that east Jerusalem be recognized as the capital of a future Palestinian state hold little if any practical weight, according to Brig. Gen. (ret.) Shlomo Brom, a senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies and an expert on Israeli-Palestinian relations.
Brom told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that such calls, including Tuesday's passing of a European Union resolution to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of both Israel and a future Palestinian state, were "purely political" and had few additional implications.
"The whole [idea of recognizing east Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital outside the framework of negotiations with Israel] is just political," Brom said. "It has no other meaning except that an important part of the West, namely the Europeans, think that this is what should be done. There are no practical implications." Additionally, Brom said, given the fact that Israeli control extends over the entirety of the city, there was little the Palestinians could do unilaterally to even lay the groundwork for such a move.
"I don't see how a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state [and therefore Palestinian control over east Jerusalem] is physically possible," Brom said. "In fact, it's impossible. Israel controls all of Jerusalem, so [the Palestinians] can't really do anything on their own to move closer to that."
However, Brom said, outside of the unilateral option, a Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem could come about through one of two scenarios.
"The first would be through an agreement with Israel, in which boundaries and security arrangements are agreed upon. The second would be a scenario in which the international community forced Israel to withdraw from east Jerusalem - either through sanctions or by use of force, similar to NATO's involvement in Kosovo - but that's a very extreme scenario, which I do not believe will materialize."
Moreover, Brom said that security officials are not perturbed by the specter of a unilateral declaration of Palestinian sovereignty in east Jerusalem, and that the common feeling is that a change in the status quo would only come about through negotiations with Israel.
Brom did say however, that security officials were concerned over the possibility of a number of security threats that could emanate from east Jerusalem, should the area fall under Palestinian control.
"There are different kinds of threats," Brom said. "One of those would be the infiltration of terrorists into Israel, which could be solved by some kind of barrier - and it doesn't have to be as ugly as the current one in Jerusalem." "Another issue is rocket fire," Brom continued. "However, that concern doesn't apply to Jerusalem alone, as rockets fired from up to 15 kilometers [east of the city] could hit west Jerusalem. These are all issues that would need to be detailed in security agreements."
As far as a physical division of the city, Brom said such a division, if it were to happen at all, would likely resemble the divisions - that is, borders - of other countries.
"There would be crossings," he said, "just like there are between other countries or sovereign areas. There would have to be special arrangements for the Holy Basin, meaning the Old City and its surroundings, and there are different ideas as to how that would be accomplished."
"But that doesn't mean it would be easy," Brom
added. "None of these solutions are easy. In fact, they are quite complicated, difficult and even problematic - but this is a complicated and problematic situation."
Brom went on to say that many of the ideas negotiators still hold concerning Jerusalem are similar to those found in the Geneva accords, which envision an Israeli pullback to pre -1967 borders in most places, but allow for the annexation of Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem - like Pisgat Ze'ev or Neveh Ya'acov.
"My impression is that the Palestinians would accept the Israeli annexation of Jewish neighborhoods built in east Jerusalem after 1967, in exchange for land elsewhere," Brom said. "All-Palestinian neighborhoods however, would fall under Palestinian sovereignty."
"The maps from the Geneva Accords are still looked upon as a possible blueprint for the implementation of [the division of Jerusalem]," Brom added. "But that's just one suggestion. Eventually, the two sides will sit down and figure these details out."
Nonetheless, Brom also stressed that the basic Palestinian position is that Jerusalem should be divided, and that east Jerusalem should be the capital of a Palestinian state, while west Jerusalem would remain the capital of Israel. How that would come about, and what it would look like, he said, is still a mixture of theoretical suggestions that mean very little without the resumption of negotiations between the two sides.