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23 Jan
  • By Stephen Byrne

Progress, Goals have been set for The Holy Places Study

The pre-Christmas very secret meeting of some very senior Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian peace shepherds whose long-term goal is an end to conflict for Israel and Palestine is showing progress and momentum. The Mediterranean Perspectives Chairman, Enrico Molinaro, who has been hosting these private meetings for the last decade has been working behind the scenes to achieve consensus on specific and achievable goals for a Holy Places Study.

This has not been an easy task with so many varying views as to what is possible and not. With so many stakeholders from different ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds, all having valuable opinions and insights, this part of the project was never going to a straightforward process.

It is worth stating that the Jerusalem Holy Places is THE MOST sensitive issue in the Arab & Israeli conflict and negotiations, embodying key symbols of the national and religious identities respectively for Israelis/Palestinians and for Christians/Jews/Muslims, which often transforms into a source of violence in the Middle East.

At the last private meeting, I witnessed incredible goodwill from each of the participants, towards a perhaps natural enemy. There was a great sense that the impossible is possible. These are all brave people willing to stand up for their beliefs and the common good of man. Observing Enrico and his fellow pacesetters reminded me of a Franklin D. Roosevelt quote;

“Far better it is to dare mighty things,

To win glorious triumphs,

Even though chequered by failure….

Then to rank with those poor spirits,

Who neither enjoy nor suffer much,

Because they live in a grey twilight

That knows neither victory nor defeat”

In a few weeks, it should be possible to release the names and roles of the Study leaders who will be participating in this critical piece of work. Behind the scenes, they have been working with Enrico to define five specific goals which are detailed as follows.

  1. Undertake a new review of the Ottoman Status Quo principles and their development throughout different rulings to the present day.
  2. Complete a detailed study of the Holy Places and of the different collective identities’ attachment to them throughout history.
  3. Conduct an analysis of the codes of conduct implemented at The Jerusalem Holy Places from 1967 to the present day, with special attention to the changes at the site since 2003.
  4. Suggest ideas that may prevent the outbreak of violence in the future and open the path to the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the conflict around The Jerusalem Holy Places.
  5. Transmit positive messages to the younger generations of Israelis and Palestinians via social media and other tools of dissemination, while providing them with peaceful channels to solve conflicts as opposed to taking a violent path.

I believe that the goals are achievable. The plans are to engage with local stakeholders and community groups and ensure that their concerns and fears are heard. Along the way, there will be regular blogs written about the progress, from many different perspectives. At the end of the study, a book will be published and a documentary about the journey released.

This is good news, progress, more baby steps.