Ed Koch Commentary: Jerusalem - We Must Not Forget You BY EDWARD I. KOCH
Over the years I have written extensively about Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Islamic terrorism. I support a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: the Jewish State of Israel and the State of Palestine living side by side in peace.
In a recent commentary, I wrote that I believe the 3,000-year-old City of Jerusalem could remain undivided, while having within it the capitals of the two states. Jerusalem would be open to everyone, insure religious freedom to all, and allow each religion to control and operate its holy places with maximum authority, under one mayor and a city council elected in districts by the city’s inhabitants.
I received numerous responses to that commentary, many from people who are Jewish. Most of them supported my position, but about ten percent said it was unrealistic. Those who challenged me do not believe that the Palestinians would accept a Jewish state in their midst. They believe the Palestinians would prefer that Israel just wither away with the passage of time or as a result of wars and terrorism.
I don’t doubt that a significant number of Palestinians and other Arabs hold those views. Indeed, most bothersome for me is the fact that since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the Palestinian leadership and Muslim states have never recognized the legitimacy of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. Their refusal to do so raises legitimate suspicions as to whether they are really interested in peaceful coexistence with Israel. The claim that a state should not have a Jewish character is nonsensical. Being Jewish can refer to either religion or ethnicity, or both, e.g., I am both. Some Muslim countries use Islam to describe their nation, e.g., the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. I am also troubled by the fact that Egypt and Jordan -- the only Arab countries to enter peace treaties with Israel – have refused to normalize relations with the Jewish state. Egyptians and Jordanians don’t travel to Israel as tourists, and occasionally when professionals such as lawyers or writers do, they run the risk of expulsion from their professional organizations. In contrast, Israeli tourists go to Jordan and flock to the Sinai in Egypt.
For these reasons and others, there is understandable skepticism about whether Palestinians and Israelis could ever share Jerusalem in the manner that I envision. I imagine a time when Palestinians and Israelis will elect a common mayor and will elect borough presidents to oversee day-to-day municipal issues such as housing and sewage, and a city council that will assure fair representation of the city’s population which is roughly one-third Muslim, two-thirds Jewish, and two percent Christian.
I want it to be clear that I believe my proposal should not be considered unless and until the Palestinian Authority and the Arab countries unequivocally accept the presence and legitimacy of the Jewish State of Israel. Before that happens, the status quo in Jerusalem should be maintained.
Let me know your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Honorable Edward Irving Koch served New York City as its 105th Mayor from 1978 to 1989.