Substantial and procedural Status Quo rules applied to the Jerusalem Holy Places
The recent Israeli-Palestinian violent clashes and the resulting debate about the Status Quo arrangements applied to the Holy Places of Jerusalem have oncœe again shown that regardless of the substance of any initiative taken by any of the Status Quo interested parties, the essential issue at stake is the procedure established by a decades-long practice.
This confusion is one the main points of controversy, which is manipulated by ill-intentioned mass-media, often provoking chaos and bloodshed. Our moral duty is to make our voices heard as loudly as possible against such devastating manipulations in order to clarify, in all possible fora, such an essential distinction. A recent interview given by Former minister and Knesset member Rabbi Michael Melchior goes in the same direction: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4995939,00.html
This distinction between substantial and procedural rules of the Jerusalem’s Holy Places’ Status Quo was at the core of the discussion as well as of all the agreed documents adopted on the occasion of the 2006-2016 ten-part Israeli-Palestinian Seminars organized by the Jerusalem Holy Places Center (JHPC), an initiative launched by the research center Mediterranean Perspectives (MP).
The JHPC organizes public and confidential debates aimed at producing an objective data-base, clarifying legal and terminological issues, identifying shared applicable principles, trying to reduce tensions regarding the Holy Places in the city. The JHPC promotes a constructive and lasting dialogue while suggesting practical solutions for the local main conflicting communities’ daily problems through a specifically detailed multidisciplinary methodology and trying to prevent the escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to face strategic crucial issues, including recent challenges from international terror and political changes in the international arena.
(Muslim worshippers stage a prayer protest outside the Temple Mount compound against metal detectors that were set up at the entrance to the holy site after a terror attack two days prior, on July 16, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
In 2006, the Italian Foreign Ministry (MAECI, in its different departments: DGMM, UAP, DGAP), together with the Rome’s Municipality and Province, as well as the Lazio Region, co-funded the first JHPC’s Israeli-Palestinian Seminar behind closed doors in Rome. On that occasion, nine outstanding Israeli and Palestinian experts agreed to adopt both a common glossary of key-words and a document of shared principles on the Jerusalem’s Holy Places. These results were published as annexes to this author’s book The Holy Places of Jerusalem in Middle East Peace Agreements. The Conflict between Global and State Identities (Sussex Academic Press, 2009).
The JHPC has so far organised several international conferences and ten Israeli-Palestinian Seminars behind closed doors between Rome, Florence, Tel Aviv (Italian Embassy) and Washington, with the active participation of Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, Moroccan, European and American experts, researchers, and institutional personalities.
The JHPC is currently planning to organize, in cooperation with the Italian Foreign Ministry, two public international conferences, one on the Anglo-Irish conflict learnings, mistakes and successes, the second about the Italian proposal of a “Marshall Plan” for local development based on “freestanding” and “resilience”, in the context of the initiatives and technical assistance/support for basic services (mainly water and electricity) in the Palestinian Territories, in particular Gaza.
(Electricity cuts in Gaza mean ordinary people suffer and highlight the need for nonpolitical and practical solutions for the people on the ground.)
The uniqueness of the Jerusalem Holy Places Center
The extraordinary cultural and methodological nature of the Jerusalem Holy Places Center (JHPC) is expressed in the following unique features:
- The JHPC is the only second-track initiative on Jerusalem’s Holy Places with no political agenda. The JHPC originated from the spontaneous request of Israelis and Palestinians, in view of the interest that the respective governmental institutions expressed confidentially and informally, involving, in more than ten years, the best and most influential experts from the two parties
- The JHPC’s inclusive and flexible agenda allows the participation of high rank experts, diplomats, legal advisors academic and leading researchers, all specialised on Israeli – Palestinian negotiations in general, or particularly on this extremely sensitive and complex issue, in an open and continuous confidential dialogue both among themselves and with religious authorities or other representatives from local or international institutions or civil society
- The Italian origin of the JHPC provides the interested parties with a neutral, friendly, and well accepted venues, settings, at their service with the spirit of a committed, humble, disinterested (but not indifferent) facilitator, whose stability and reliability over more than ten years has proven suitable, in comparison with similar initiatives elsewhere
- Each JHPC’s Seminar behind closed doors has included the participation of a professional filmmaker for documentation and for possible future educational purposes in case of a successful end of the peace negotiations. These Filmmakers operate with mutual full trust about the strict confidentiality of both the identity of the participants and the contents of the meetings’ proceedings
(The Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif compound is one of the most sensitive issues in the Isreali – Palestinian conflict.)
The JHPC’s 2018 Agenda
In 2018, the JHPC intends to develop, under the auspices of Mediterranean Perspectives and in cooperation with the Irish no-profit organisation RippleZoo, the following goals:
- To undertake a new study of the legal and historical aspects of the Ottoman Status Quo’s principles and procedural rules as applied to the Christian Holy Places, and their development throughout different regimes to the present day, in order to examine to what extent those principles may have influenced the Jewish-Muslim Status Quo, or are still relevant.
- To complete a detailed study of the Jerusalem Holy Places and of the different collective identities’ attached to it throughout history from a multidisciplinary perspective including anthropology, history, comparative religious studies, international and other relevant systems of law.
- To conduct an analysis of the codes of conduct in place at the Holy Places from 1967 to the present day, with special attention to the changes at the sites since 2003.
The expected results/outputs from the study highlighted by the JHPC are:
- Suggest ideas and best practices to prevent the outbreak of violence in the future and to open paths for the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the controversy around the Holy Places.
- Communicate and spread positive messages to the younger generations of Israelis and Palestinians via social media (ex. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and other tools of dissemination, such as the frequent publication of internet blogs, while providing them with creative and innovative peaceful channels and creative opportunities to reduce tensions and contribute to solving conflicts and discouraging the proliferation of radicalism and violent paths.
Rome, August 14, 2017
Enrico Molinaro holds a Ph.D. in international law and international relations from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.He is the Executive Director of the Italian Network for the Euro-Mediterranean Dialogue (RIDE) within the framework of the Anna Lindh Foundation since 2015. He is the Founder & Chairman of the non-profit research center Mediterranean Perspectives and of the Jerusalem Holy Places Center (JHPC). Enrico has organized international conferences and led second track negotiations with the participation of Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian academic, diplomatic, religious and political authorities since 2006. He is a writer on the topics of: “status quo” in Jerusalem; “sovereignty” in terms of title, independence, and jurisdiction in international law; models of collective identity in Europe, the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the BRICS organisation. Enrico lectures at different University courses through English, French, Spanish, Hebrew, Italian in the Euro-Mediterranean area.