Jerusalem is embedded in the national narratives of both Israelis and Palestinians. Its historic and religious significance make it a particularly heated issue at the negotiating table. According to religious traditions, Jerusalem was the site of both the first and second Jewish Temples and the capital of the ancient Israelite kingdom; where Mohammad ascended to heaven; and where Jesus was crucified and resurrected. The Old City of Jerusalem is home to sites of key religious importance, among them the Temple Mount, Western Wall, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Dome of the Rock, and al-Aqsa Mosque.Today, Jerusalem is the self-declared capital of Israel, and Palestinians expect the city to be the capital of the future Palestinian state.So the core question is whether Jerusalem can somehow serve as the capital of both Israel and the future state of Palestine?

In order to begin answering this question, it is helpful to distinguish between the historical city of Jerusalem — which carries the bulk of the historical and religious significance for both parties — from the modern day city of municipal Jerusalem, whose boundaries were delineated by Israel in 1967. The historical city of Jerusalem — the Jerusalem of the Hebrew Scriptures, New Testament, and Koran, and even as recently as the early 20th century — represented a tiny sliver of the city that today bears the same name.

The challenge of running a border through Municipal Jerusalem, largely devoid of contentious sites, is an urban problem: How to create two viable and contiguous capitals whose geography has become intertwined over the past 45 years. The Clinton Parameters, outlined by President Clinton after the 2000 Camp David negotiations, proposed that the Arab neighborhoods of Municipal Jerusalem be part of the future state of Palestine and the Jewish neighborhoods be part of Israel.

The issue of the Old City of Jerusalem is extremely complicated, for numerous reasons. Approximately 3,500 Jews and 33,000 Arabs live in an area less than 1-square-kilometer inside the Old City’s walls. There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of significant religious and historic sites located within this small area with no clear way to divide them up based on the demographics of residents.

The Old City is a focal point of Israel’s tourism industry, and likely will be for the future state of Palestine. Any border scheme in or around the Old City would have to cater to the complex needs of different constituencies with different interests.After examining the realities on the ground today in Jerusalem and evaluating the various proposals for Municipal Jerusalem and the Old City, let’s return to the question we asked at the beginning of this presentation: Can Jerusalem serve as the capital of Israel and the future state of Palestine?Page includes the interactive Jerusalem atlas (found in Basecamp under Jerusalem) plus description below:
Jerusalem is the ‘volcanic core’ of the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab conflicts. Competing and, to some extent, irreconcilable religious, national, and historic narratives – Israeli and Palestinian; Jewish, Muslim, and Christian – exist side-by-side in the city, in a constant struggle for legitimacy, validity, and survival.

The following geopolitical atlas attempts to demystify Jerusalem and to clarify its geographic, demographic, and political makeup. The atlas is the work of Terrestrial Jerusalem (TJ) – an Israeli NGO that works to identify and track the full spectrum of developments in Jerusalem that could impact either the political process or permanent status options, destabilize the city or spark violence, or create humanitarian crises. It is re-published here with the gracious permission of TJ founder and director Daniel Seidemann. The maps and data reflect his – and the other members of TJ’s staff – unmatched expertise. We hope you enjoy it.