Saturday Feb 27, 2:30 PM:

Session: Jerusalem: Divisible with Liberty and Justice For All?

Chair: Yuval Beziman, Usa Director, Geneva Initiative

Moderator: Eetta Prince-Gibson, Eitor-in-Chief, The Jerusalem Report

Panel: Rabbi Ed Feld – Senior Editor of Mahzor Lev Shalem, Danny Seidemann – Founder of Terrestrial Jerusalem, Laura Wharton – Member of Jerusalem City Council

Prince-Gibson: Not just a religious center, but an actual urban center. Also a spiritual City, and a contested city. Purpose of discussion is to go beyond the issues of “possession” and look at it in a more complex but rewarding way.

Seidemann: If the current pace of development in East Jerusalem continues Jerusalem will be so balkanized that it will no longer become possible to reach a compromise. This is the loss of the two state solution and thus challenges the existence of Israel. Since Aug 9, 2005 when Sharon’s Cabinet voted on it, there has been a plan in action to transfer the control of the religious groups to Secular groups married to a Jewish Old City government position. The historic and religious integrity of Jerusalem is being compromised and turning a national issue into a religious issue that will expand the conflict. Third, the Palestinians of East Jerusalem cannot vote nationally or locally – it is a sytemic disfunctionality. Can’t deliver mail, collect trash, etc. etc. in East Jerusalem. It is in East Jerusalem, where the law is essentially suspended. If democracy is in danger in Israel, then East Jerusalem is where it is dying. These are all existential dillemas. In the next several years Jerusalem is where Israel will finally be driven into full Pariah status, or it will be the city where the Saudi Embassy will exist and the Mosque will be treated with the sam respect as the Temple. This is not just a question for Israel, any national plan for a two state solution MUST include a plan for Jerusalem.

Wharton: As far as she is concerned Jerusalem is already divided, but NOT in the way people think. The way it is divided could be either a problem or a solution. 1 – Leave each sector to itself, 2 – le the loonies keep going until people have had enough (“The Algeria Solution”), or UNITE Jerusalem on how to DIVIDE Jerusalem. This last one is what she believes is the best solution. Biggest demonstration was of 100,000 Ultra-Orthodoxes who wanted to disallow Sephardim from the Ashkenazi majority schools, so there is a micro split. The CITY council has 10 parties. It is a divided mosaic BEFORE you count in the Arabs and Palestinians. This is why it might be solvable the last way – no one group large enough to enable the process.

International City will not work because no one can agree who would be on the committee. This is what killed the idea in 48. Jerusalem would have to be divided by the Jewish Members of the Knesset, which will make the decision seem illegitimate. Perhaps the only way to make Jerusalem divisible is to first let the Jews in Jerusalem feel democracy and then they can develop empathy for social justice for the Palestinians. Jerusalem is ruled largely by Orthodox Jewish law. Also, most Jerusalemites are poor. So the Jewish people in Jerusalem need to have obs, an education, and step away from racism towards each other before they can care about what happens to Palestinians.

3:44 PM:

Rabbi Feld – “I can be in Israel for six months and never leave Jerusalem.” First came to Jerusalem in 66. City was still divided. Went through Jordan to go to the wailing wall. So walking to the wailing wall from the Israeli side was a very special day for him. He was overjoyed until he talked to an ultra-orthoox anti-zionist and said aren’t you happy and he responded “Do you think that pile of stones is the messiah?” It woke him up to a sophisticated new way of looking at the prophetic image of Jerusalem as the voice of peace to the world. The image in Isaiah of Jerusalem is an image of Peace and Social Justice – “the city of righteousness, the faithful city”. The dream of Jewish return is not a dream simply of national power and renaissance, but the dream of the implementation of ideals, the Zionist dream of the Jew having powerwill be able to implement that power in a way we did not ourselves experience them. That a Jewish people who were oppressed can rule without oppressing others. This only works, the dream of Jerusalem, only works if the Palestinians enjoy all of the same basic services. He believes in the internationalization of the Holy Sites. That is the real dream of Jerusalem. It is meant biblically to be a place where the world comes to speak with god.

Author’s note: The above was me typing as fast as I can. I no doubt have many typos to correct later, and realy wish I had recored. For both the speech and the tone in its entirety was the most spiritually moving and politically convincing argument I have heard so far.

P-G: There is such a thing as a Jerusalemite, but many of us as individuals fly many flags, and the question is how do we hear the word of god above the screams and pain and explosion. SOvereignty, ownership, united, divided, none of these terms work for Jerusalem. It is a city that no one owns and everyone owns.

Question: How to give control of urbanism to the city of Jerusalem and not to outside developers who invest in land development to prevent the ability to divide East Jerusalem.

Question: Why do Palestinians see a light rail in Jerusalem as a threat.

Question with an Answer built in: A Rabbi suggesting a way to put writings from Tannach and Talmud that show Israel as an International City and “land for peace” as an idea given license in the talmud.

Seidmann on Q1: Don’t worry about it, It has failed to move anyone. Only 2,500 people and no displacement. The municipality has the ability to stop it as does the prime minister. If you enforce the same law for ALL the problem goes away.

Wharton: We control East Jerusalem, right or wrong, so should we develop it. Problem is that if we build there people don’t trust and I can understand that. We built them a post office they burnt it down. If we build a school people are okay. If we build or pave a road sometimes they will have support and sometimes not. A light rail that goes through Arab neighborhoods would help Arabs get jobs and get to the hospital

Feld – Yes, we need to take back the bigger meaning of the word religious and that kind of literature could help.

Q- How work it pragmatically?

Q – Should PA be allowed to operate there now?

Q- What are the modern advantages and disadvantages of internationalism?

Q- What do you think the Americans and J Street should be advocating for Jerusalem to maintain the possibility of a two state solution.

Seidmann: This will be the least romantic peace in history. WATCH THE FEET. Where the Israelis walk today will be Israel and where Palestinians walk will be Palestinian. We rule East Jerusalem unfairly because we rule East Jerusalem at all. Only the 5% where they both walk, in the old city, is up for question. It is worth noting that since the Biden disaster, Netenyahu FROZE, he just never said it,. Netenyahu blinked, he didn’t change a position,he had an existential moment with the President of the United States. He froze and he survived, so his whole argument of he cant get away with it is done. He did it and Obama did not get beaten up politically so he can demand it.

Wharton: Disagrees with Seidmann: Yes, we should get out of East Jerusalem yesterday, but until then we do we have a moral responsibility to provide for the people in these neighborhoods. We should not be there, but that cannot be a reason to not provide health care and schooling until we do leave. It is not about a defacto united Jerusalem, it is about human rights.

On to the next session. Back in 20 minutes!


4:10 PM:

Plenary Session: Knesset Roundtable: Israeli Politics and Policy in 2011

Chair: Davidi Gilo, Chair of J Street Board of Directors

Moderator: Barbara Slavin, Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council and contributor to Foreign Policy and AOL News


For Kadima: Knesset Members Yoel Hasson, Shlomo Molla, Nachman Shai

For Labor: Knesset Members Amir Peretz, Daniel Ben Simon, Orit Zuaretz

This one will probably be pretty fast and furious, so I am more likely to spit out ideas expressed without necessarily creiting everything for which I apologize in advance.

Only five – not sure who is missing as the Chair who introduced them had a thick accent.

Nachmann Shai doing opening for all of them:

Talking about a run he took up Masada. The story of Masada is a reminder of the importance of united Judaism. The Jewish people are two small now, just two generations after the holocaust to let ourselves be divided. .. I believe that we must have our internal debates but we must not allow the outside world to misstate our intentions. Criticism is legitimate, we need to learn to better discern between constructive criticism and delegitimization. We cannot allow our internal disputes on how to be a true Dmocratic Jewish State to feed those who question our right to exist at all.

Moderator thanking Israeli Knesset for putting off vote on bill on leftist NGO Investigations so that members could be here. Now open to panel on that bill, next 6 months, stability of coalition, and will Kadima join government.


Kadima member: No way. Do not believe the current gov’t can move the peace process forward, Gov’t more interested in staying in power than anything else. Netenyahu not in control of this government, Lieberman and his ilk more in control. Betting that instability will start to show by 2012 and believes that Israel should move immediately to election. The bill mentioned is an example of how problematic the coalition is. The bill would have done huge damage to the image of Israel in an attempt to silence the left.


Zuaretz on Church State issues and impact on governing coalition: Yes, tension exists – Israel is mostly orthodox, and the Ultra Orthodox Anti-Zionist Anti-Democratic forces hold great sway and in their communities live by rabbinical law. We are being measured on the Knesset by a dangerous religious yardstick that could break this coalition. Coalitions do not break apart because of the opposition, but because of cracks in the coalition and there are lots.

Hasson: Ethiopian, talking about Ethiopian Jews tend to be centrist and not Orthodox while ussians are more likeley to be far right and/or Orthodox – so ifferent immigrants with different attitudes. All but one of the MKs here are immigrants.

Ben Simon – Tens to not trust the Israeli politicians who say the main enemy is that the world does not accept us. It started only a few years ago because of Israeli policies. It is too fake. We cannot carry on with these politics. We have to change course. Prime Minister to Knesset is talking about how the whole world is against us. We have one of the fastest growing economies, we are a financial and population superpower -Those that say the world hates us, we have to be united and stop the peace process because of what is happening in Tunisia, etc. It is simply not true. It is a paranoid politics of fear started by Sharon and renewed by Netenyahu.

Moderator: Are you going to dismiss a UN Vote and the 133 countries already recognizing a Palestinian State as delegitimization?

Shai: This is a dangerous thing, but the solution is to stop endlessly talking about Peace and to make Peace. I will be honest, I care about Israel before I care about the Palestinians, but I know that the only way to do what is best for Israel and Democracy is to make piece now with Abu Mazzen and Fayyad, as no one better is coming along.

Molla: Yes, the time is now. We need to move the two state solution from the left of Israeli Politics to the center. We must learn not to be scared of making peace, but scared of not having peace.

Moderator: Impact of Intifadahs throught arab world on Palestinians – will they reunite or suppress and how will it effect Peace process?

Hasson: Big differenc between Hamas and Fatah. If they come together with Hamas forswearing violence we can talk. But the Hamas interest is the Iranian/Hezbollah interest. It is in our interest to have a two stage solution where we make a deal with Fatah and then work Gaza into it. The most important hold now is what exactly will we trade in land for peace and we need the US to strongly advocate for the two state solution. If we cannot come to agreement because of this, then we need the US to put down a plan an say “take it or leave it”.

Zuaretz: It was only two years ago that we were meeting regularly and we were all around the table. It has been there, it is possible. But the instability of Israel and our elections stopped that, and we can’t continue because of it. The Peace process is running away from us because of our economy. Netenyahu spoke last week about being connected to reality when he is the one disconnected from reality. Sometimes when not everyone can sit at the table, you need a responsible adult to step in (U.S.).

Moderator: How do you plan to bring Labor party back to relevance? (to Ben Simon)

Ben Simon: Amonth ago Labor moved to the opposition. Being in partnership with Likud he felt like a hostage. History has to be fair to this party, we created this state, its values, its arts. Despite the fact that this party is in agony you cannot forget the role it played it creating this society. Labor for the first time is at harmony with itself, now the question is can it define itself  give the Israelis an image of what we are. We have become identified with Likud, and now we must tdecide what we are – are we right, are we left are we center. Netenyahu will lose the next election because he has repeated the mistakes he made in 1996. He has taken hope away. Tzipi Livni is very dynamic leader and if Kadima is more like its leader an we can work with them with us as perhaps a left center party we can build from 8 members to 10-12 and work with Kadima.

Moderator: Why Israel does not have a constitution? Any possibility for electoral reform?

Shai: As long as coalition governing continues the way it has neither is possible. We need a strong Labor to the left so we can pull back to the center with Kadima and then the center can pull the moderate right to the middle and create a strong secular government not beholden to the religious party. That is when you can have a constitution and electoral reform.

Moderator: Vice Foreign Minister of Israel recently spoke to  LA ewish organizations an asked them to tell U.S. gov’t to lay off because Israeli gov’t is not ready to make peace. Is this policy?

Everyone caught off guard by that.Eventually Hasson makes clear that this is not the general desire of the Israeli people or Knesset.

Moderator: US Jews appear to be more to the left than US Jewish leaders would have Israel an the US Government believe. What can you do to help the American left Jews get their message accross to our government.

Zuaretz: Our own left is being threatened by the current gov’t. Someone put a lot of money into calling 80,000 members of Kadima to avoid our coming to this event. Others are trying to shut down our own left through this postponed legislation because our own left is getting a voice again. This is something new, and the old are always scared of something new, but the new is the future. What the Deputy Foreign Minister said he was speaking the truth, they are not ready to bring peace, and that means they should leave. We must have leadership that can make peace, because that is the only way Israel has a democratic future, and when Netanyahu says one thing to Obama about making Peace and the next day Lieberman says the opposite to the U.N. then the President has GOT to speak up.

Hasson: We in the knesset as we see law after law passed that puts democracy at risk we must speak up and tell our people that J-Street is a friend of ours and a frien of peace so you can help us more.

Moderator: What about lifting seige of Gaza, especially since Egypt’s new gov’t might lift theirs.

Shai: We cannot forget that they have been holding an Israeli soldier somewhere underground for 1700 days. It is not all about Israel. He was kidnapped on Israeli territory. I know you see it as a collective punishment but I (Shai) do not. Until the world van make Hamas come to the table we have no choice.

Ben Simon: We are our own worst enemy. We cannot give up peace. Peace is a Prime Ministerial decision and he has not made it. After 2,000 yars we have the land and the power, but now we do not have the courage to make peace. It is the dream of the father. We have o give the Israeli parents that there will be no more war. We have to find a way to live together or Israel will not be what we wnat her to be,

Molla: We need moderates on both sides, only they can bring peace. btween 2011-2012 either oneside can do something dramatic to move peace forward. If not we must create a huge force to come to the next election that says we can do better than Netenyahu on all things and then we should, all of us, be focused to bring more an more people in Israel to believe that the two state solution is in the full interest of the Jewish People and the Israeli People.

5:30 PM

Ben Ami briefly steps up to thank them and say how courageous it wasto be there. Now off to a cocktail party. I’ll wrap up the day later tonght.