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Project Overview

Mission Statement:

The Jerusalem Old City Initiative is developing creative options for the governance and management of the Old City of Jerusalem in preparation for a negotiated settlement between Israelis and Palestinians. The powerful symbolic and emotional attachment which these two peoples have for the Old City and its holy sites requires careful preparatory work and discussion in order to create possible paths to a just and lasting peace. In encouraging dialogue and academic discussions on key issues that are critical to national and religious aspirations of all involved parties, a foundation can be established on which further political negotiations can be based. Working with Israeli, Palestinian and international civil society partners, the Canadian team is providing leadership and coordination in developing and implementing research, dialogue, advocacy and policy option identification relating to the critical issues that affect a settlement over the Old City.

Home: The Initiative is housed at the Department of Political Science, University of Windsor, Canada.

Funding: The Jerusalem Old City Initiative has been funded by grants from The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and the Woodrow Wilson School for International and Public Affairs, Princeton University.

Background:

Phase I (2003-2005):

The Initiative has been active for over four years in developing new ideas and options using a modular needs-based approach integrated into a special regime paradigm for the Old City, while introducing an international dimension to arrangements. This work initially resulted in the publication of a discussion document entitled New Directions for Deliberation and Dialogue published in December 2005 by the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto. That month there was also a major conference involving Israeli, Palestinian and international experts in Istanbul. Wide ranging discussion ensued, with the conclusion that working groups on key themes should be formed to deepen research and policy development.

Phase II (2005-Present):

The Process: Carefully selected working groups, consisting of Israelis and Palestinians and supported by specific international experts, have engaged in fact-finding visits to Jerusalem, conducted consultations with experts and commissioned analytical papers from our Israeli and Palestinian partners to be discussed periodically in workshops. The objective of this symbiotic process is to release a final comprehensive report within eighteen months of each working group commencing.

Security Working Group: The need for effective and equitable security in the Old City is of unquestioned importance, above all because of the presence of Holy Sites. The group explored and designed security institutions and arrangements for a sustainable security and law enforcement system which aimed to meet the needs of Israelis and Palestinians. Launched in 2006, this working group completed its final report in November 2007.  

Governance Working Group: Over the past fifty years, numerous proposals have been made to ensure effective management of the affairs of the Old City. Given deep seated mistrust between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, progress has proven impossible. Without impinging on the sovereignty claims of Israelis and Palestinians, this Group undertook an in depth examination of the legal and operational implications of an interim special regime, including options for carefully defined international involvement. The group completed its report in November 2008. 

Mandate Elements Group: This document constitutes an informal check list for negotiators specifying the essential elements necessary for inclusion in any agreement negotiated by Israelis and Palestinians.  We anticipate these elements would constitute the core of any annex to a comprehensive treaty, as it pertains to Jerusalem, agreed to by the two parties, an essential requisite for sustainability.  The group completed its work in February 2010.

Property Working Group: A preliminary survey is underway to examine the social, national and religious profile of the Old City, categories of ownership, land usage, ownership records, tenancy, laws and regulations and models for addressing property issues in a Special Regime.  The survey will provide a baseline for further research and policy recommendations.  Initial work is underway.

Archaeological Working Group: The project aims to investigate the parameters for managing archaeology and heritage issues.  This is a key area of contention between the sides and the nature of a workable system for defusing and managing these affairs is crucial.  Management of archaeology and heritage issues also relates closely to the management of property, planning and zoning.  Initial work has begun.