Give Jerusalem to God
A new “solution” to Israel’s conundrum:
The curses and question marks over Jerusalem can’t go on forever. Something has to give. But is a practical, pacifying solution over Jerusalem even possible?
Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah seems to think so.
If Jerusalem can’t be peacefully ruled by either Jews or Arabs, perhaps the only thing to do is to put it in God’s hands. That’s Mr. Sabbah’s plan: divine sovereignty over Jerusalem.
It was initially greeted with amusement. But then more people started to take a liking to the idea, including, most notably, Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Omert and Palestinian Authority representative Ziad Abu Zayyad. Egypt and Jordan also say they are considering it.
What is attractive about the seemingly fishy notion is that it would give both sides a way to save face and avoid any accusations from their constituencies of selling out. Neither would have to acknowledge the other’s overall sovereignty. And who can argue when “God” is the landlord?
Menachem Klein, a researcher at the Jerusalem Institute who co-authored the study, told the Jerusalem Post, “This works nicely because Arafat could say to his people, ‘Allah is sovereign,’ while the Jews would say, ‘God is sovereign.’” Enacting the proposal may silence even the most clamorous of religious political voices on both sides.
What does it mean, though, in practical terms? After all, details of the actual administration of the territory would still have to be worked out.
Pope John Paul ii has proposed that Jerusalem’s holy sites be entrusted to a United Nations-supervised body representing the Jewish, Muslim and Christian religions. No one seems to love the idea particularly, but some Palestinian sources suggest that it’s better than anything the Jews have offered. Israel has conceded that it may consider a role for the United Nations in resolving the Jerusalem issue.
But, ultimately, any serious discussion of “divine sovereignty” will surely mean Catholic sovereignty. The pope is the only religious figure in the world with real political clout. He has met with Arafat eight times. Barak, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan have each had audience with him over the Mideast peace process. No other religious leader has their trust. In addition, he is respected as a “representative of God” by people and governments the world over.
The Roman Catholic Church’s designs on Jerusalem go back well before this latest peace process. Throughout the Middle Ages they repeatedly fought with Muslims and Jews for control of the Holy Land in the Crusades.
The picture today is different insofar as the church is accomplishing its purpose through diplomacy and negotiation rather than violence. In the midst of a volatile Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Pope John Paul ii has made agreements with both sides to safeguard rights to Catholic sites regardless of the outcome.
The pope’s trip in March to the Holy Land marking the Jubilee year 2000 was hailed as a coup of inter-religious diplomacy. He spent time with Muslims and Jews, visiting holy sites, making public apologies for past sins committed by the church, stirring up a media frenzy. At one point he called Jews the “senior brothers” of Christians. Hopes for a rosy future of Catholic-Jewish relations were high.
However, indications that such thinking was too optimistic have begun to surface. The Dominus Iesus document (see article, p. 6) issued by the Vatican labeling non-Catholic religion as “gravely deficient” and saying that only Catholics have “the fullness of the means of salvation” rankled Jewish leaders.
They were further taken aback by excerpts, published in a German magazine in September, from a new book called God and the World by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican’s official doctrine watchdog. The excerpts quoted him as saying that the Roman Catholic Church hasn’t given up hope that Jews will embrace Christianity: “We are waiting for the moment in which Israel too will say yes to Christ.”
These are not the words of a disinterested third party to the Mideast peace process. They point to a future of ever-greater involvement. In fact, they are evidence that for the Vatican to achieve its true goals in the Holy Land, diplomacy and negotiation will only get them so far.