A year ago, Professor Moshe Amirav, world expert on the conflict in Jerusalem, published this book in Hebrew in Israel. Although written ostensibly as an academic work, Jerusalem Syndrome drew attention from the general public, media, and politicians alike.
Amirav presents previously unrevealed information, original analysis, and creative solutions for resolving the conflict over Jerusalem in a highly readable text. The narrative is filled with his personal experiences as witness to and participant in political negotiations and national and municipal decision making over the last 20 years.
The book seeks to answer some disturbing questions:
“How is it that after 40 years of Israeli efforts to unify Jerusalem it is still one of the most divided cities in the world?”
“Why is it that no country, including the United States, has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel?”
“Why has Israel failed in its efforts to curb the rapid growth of Jerusalem’s Palestinian population, an increase that will lead to a Palestinian majority in Jerusalem in the next decade?”
Amirav explains how Israel’s policies have failed to “unite” Jerusalem.
The book analyzes Israeli and Palestinian strategies to gain control over the territories in East Jerusalem. Neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians have proved victorious, and the battle rages on.
Parallel to the Israeli-Palestinian political conflict over Jerusalem is another conflict – the international and religious one. The actors here are the United Nations, the Vatican, the Arab League, Egypt and Jordan. Actually, this battle has much more serious implications for stability in the Middle East. The association of politics and religion has especially catastrophic potential in Jerusalem. The occupation of Haram el Sharif (Temple Mount) by Israel has become the symbol of western colonization for radical Muslims worldwide.
Amirav reveals the cracks in the veneer of Arab solidarity by showing the deep divisions within the Arab-Muslim camp. For example, the long and bitter quarrel between King Hussein of Jordan and Chairman Arafat over guardianship of Muslim holy places overshadowed their animosity towards Israel.
The book provides a gripping account of what exactly happened in the Camp David negotiations in 2000. Amirav claims that the failure to reach an overall settlement was primarily due to disagreement about sovereignty over Jerusalem’s Holy Places. He reveals the surprising fact that 95% of the issues relating to Jerusalem were secretly agreed upon by Clinton, Barak, and Arafat.
Amirav concludes with creative solutions for reaching a settlement on the seemingly intractable stalemate in Jerusalem. He suggests that the key to peace lies in placing the Old City and its Holy Places (1% of the city’s area) under a special status, neither Israeli nor Palestinian, and that the rest of Jerusalem be divided.
When interviewed at the time of the book’s publication, Amirav stated repeatedly: “We have to divide Jerusalem. We have to get rid of some of our syndromes, some of our dreams.”
Newsweek magazine (The Holy City Loses Faith, June 4, 2007),