Last week the British Advertising Standards Agency decided that the Israeli Government Tourism office could not use a picture of the Western wall with the Dome of the Rock in the background in its advertising. As the Wall is in East Jerusalem and therefore considered by the international community to be occupied territory and that it somehow would imply that occupied East Jerusalem is part of Israel.
Whilst I would agree that it would be controversial if Israel were to use Sheikh Jarrah or Abu Dis for example in its adverts (not that they would). The Western Wall is something different altogether. I don’t think that anyone in their right mind would expect Israel under any final status agreement to accept any arrangement that did not give Israel control over this site. One would not expect Catholics to have to give up the Vatican or Muslims to ever compromise on Mecca or Medina.
There are some who use such a logic to asset that Israel should not have to make any compromises on the small amount of land that it has. In a final status agreement Israel already has to accept that it will more than likely have to give up Hebron, one of its four holiest cities, and will have to make some sort of compromise on Judaism’s holiest city and ‘eternal capital,’ Jerusalem, whether that be division or shared rule or possibly another arrangement.
If it is agreed that Jerusalem is to be a shared capital city for both Israel and Palestine, then there is no controversy. If it is to be divided, Israel would most likely not accept the Old City to be under Palestinian sovereignty. It would be most likely internationalized and control over the four quarters would be divided giving power to the respective group of each quarter.
Either way, the Western Wall and the Jewish quarter of the Old City are the religious symbols at the heart of Judaism, the Jewish people and the State of Israel. To suggest that Israeli sovereignty of the Western wall is not a closed issue and will be discussed as part of a final settlement agreement is ridiculous and the ASA should reverse its decision.
Israel I concede will have to make compromises on Jerusalem, but on Israeli control of the Western wall and the Jewish quarter is probably the most closed issue for Israelis and Jews. It is extremely complicated how to resolve this problem, but it is extremely unlikely that Jews will give up on the Western wall. It potentially runs the risk of all out violence. It is dangerous enough an issue to address even without the idea of the Old City being a factor. To imply that Israel may or may not have control of this site in the future is not even worth discussing, no Israeli leader would agree to give up Jewish control over this site.
Arafat did not accept the idea of the Haram Al Sharif being under Israeli sovereignty but Palestinian control, Israel too will not agree to it being under Palestinian sovereignty but under Israeli/Jewish control. At best the Old City may become internationalized and under neithers sovereignty but the holy sites and respective quarters may be under the control of each group. They may not be contiguity in this arrangement at all, but Israel will not give up its stake and its claim to this site and the Jewish quarter.