“Why are Moslems so emphatic about the claim that Jerusalem belongs exclusively to them? Most people would assume that just as Israel’s claims are based on the Bible, the Moslem claim is based on the Islamic holy book—the Koran. But the Koran does not mention Jerusalem, or Al Kuds as it is called in Arabic, even once!” (http://www.israilto day.co.il/)
M. Hamdan Basyar
By the reason that Al-Quran never mentioned Jerusalem, the Jews doubted Muslims’s claim on Jerusalem. According to them, the motivation of Muslims’s claim is to memorise the victory of Muslim invasion led by Khalifah Umar ibn Khattab in 638. At that time, Umar received the transfer of Jerusalem from Sophronikus (Christian authority in Jerusalem). By then Christians received protection of their rights savely. Their property and Christian Church were guaranteed by Umar to be used freely.
It can be seen the Jews’s efforts to separate the problem of Jerusalem where Masjid Al-Aqsha is located from the Muslims one. They intentionally gave informations that Masjid Al-Aqsha which is mentioned in Al-Quran was not located in Jerusalem. And Jerusalem itself is never mentioned in Al-Quran. They incited the sentiment of hostility between Islam and Christianity by giving an information that the Muslims’sclaim over Jerusalem only to memorise the fall of Jerusalem from the Christian authority into the Islam’s hand. This is intentionally stirred up by them in order to incite ”Crusade” between Islam and Christianity as it was occured in the Middle Ages. And if it is happened, the Jews will control Jerusalem easily.
The Jewish archeologists believed that on the location of the mosque claimed by Muslims as Masjid Al-Aqsha there is the remnants of Jewish Temple. They believed that in 70 BC, when Jerusalem was under the Roman control, the temple was destroyed after the Jewish was expelled from the Palestinian territory. To prove this thing, they managed to excavate the land under Masjid Al-Aqsha. The excavation efforts sparked a controversy among the Israeli authorities. Some of them supported the efforts and the other ones against them, but the official policy of the Israeli government was not clear. The problem of the land excavation under Masjid Al-Aqsha is apparently intentionally floated.
Jerusalem is one of the crucial issues between Israel and Palestine indeed. Based on the Declaration of Principles (DOP), signed by Isarel and Palestine, September 13, 1993 Jerusalem is included the subject which would be discussed to determine as permanent status. In this case, Palestine actually has two positions, namely a) As apart of the land annexed by Israel, 1967, the East Palestine is the territory which is included in the UN Resolution No. 242. Thus, the territory is the territorial part of the State of Palestine. After Palestine has its clear territorial border, so the East Jerusalem will become its capital city; b) Palestine would make Jerusalem as the open city. It means that they would not make a boundary which hindering people who traveling in the city. As ”the city of three religions”, the Palestine authority will guarantee the freedom of worships in the Old City. With its existing capacity, Palestine will protect any ancient sites in the city.
Responding to the Palestine position, Israel considered Jerusalem was an unseparated unit. So, there is no East Jerusalem or West Jerusalem. They recognised one Jerusalem which is now the capital city of Israel. It means the Israeli authority kept to want the sovereignity of Jerusalem regardless the UN Resolution No. 242 which ordering the return of East Jerusalem annexed by Jerusalem since 1967.Jerusalem is a sensitive issue. Various proposals had been posed as alternatives to settle the case. Vatican, for an instance, wanted Jerusalem was under the international control. Several Israeli intellectuals suggested that the sovereignity of Jerusalem is just given to God so that the both of parties can negotiate without any burden of who have sovereignity over Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Egypt proposed the both of them to cease the sovereign claim over Masjid Al-Aqsha. And the Mosque sovereignity is managed by the Islamic Endowment Body.
To overcome the Jerusalem issue, the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) set up ”The Committee of Jerusalem.” Its main duty is to define how to administrate Jerusalem well. The Committee had already held several meetings. In a meeting in Agadir, Morocco, August 28, 2000 President Yasser Arafat confirmed that Jerusalem is a key for the peace and war in the Middle East. He added: “We will defend the return of Al-Quds to its legitimate owners and there will be no peace and stability in the region if it does not return to its legitimate owners. This is a red line which can not be crossed” (Jerusalem Post, 29 Agustus 2000). The Morocco meeting was held to support the Palestinian position on the Jerusalem status.
For the first time the Committee of Jerusalem’s meeting was attended by a delegation of the Jerusalem Church. Attalah Hannah, who led the delegation, said: “Al-Quds is an Arab and Palestinian city with its holy shrines, holy Islamic and Christian shrines. There will be no peace in the region unless the city is returned to its legitimate owners and becomes the capital of the Palestinian independent state”(Ibid).
The confirmation of Chairman of the Jerusalem Church’s delegation showed the support of the church over the Palestine aspiration to control Jerusalem, at least for the eastern part of Jerusalem.
But the Israeli party still did not want to know and they wanted to make Jerusalem as the Israeli capital city instead of Tel Aviv. Ehud Olmert, former Israeli Prime Minister, once said: “To maximize the number of Jews; to minimize the number of Palestinians; not to withdraw to the 1967 border and not to divide Jerusalem” (Ha’aretz, 15 November 2003).
It showed that to control Jerusalem, Israel must multiply its population there in various ways, including by developing Jewish settlements. The status of Jerusalem itself will not be shared to Palestine.
So, the Israeli Zionist government’s announcement to build 1,600 houses in East Jerusalem is a part of their political claim over Jerusalem. As we know, when US Vice President Joe Biden visited Israel on March 9, 2010, the Jewish state announced the plan of the development of settlements for Jewish residents. Certainly the US considered the plan as a slap on its face and a humiliation because US President Barack Obama in Cairo, June 2009, said that the development of Jewish settlement in the territory annexed by Israel in 1967 must be halted for the sake of the Palestine-Israel negotiation materialised.
To muffle the US disappointment, Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu visited Washington. He met Obama in the White House on March 23, 2010. The meeting of the friendly leaders apparently did not bear a positive fruit. Several media reported that there was no any session to take jointly a photograph or any joint statement after the meeting. Such a condition is not used to happened in the White House.
The stubborn stance of the Israel who claim Jerusalem as the only owner of it certainly would hinder the negotiation between Palestine and Israel.
M. Hamdan Basyar is a senior researcher at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), a lecture at the Post Graduate Programme in Islamic and Middle East Studies of the University of Indonesia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org