Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Jerusalem in International Diplomacy:

The Religious

The Political

The 2000 Camp
  David Summit
  and Its

UN Res. 242
UN Res. 338
PLO Letter on
  Res. 181

Israel Letter on
  Res. 181

Map 1 -

Map 2 -
  Distribution of
  Beyond the

Map 3 -
  1949 Cease-
  Fire Line

Map 4 -
  Israeli United

Map 5 -

Jerusalem in International Diplomacy


The diplomatic failure surrounding the July 2000 Camp David Summit between Israel and the PLO emanated largely, though not exclusively, from the gap between the parties over the issue of Jerusalem. Prime Minister Ehud Barak and President Bill Clinton insisted on holding the summit because they concluded that the diplomatic gaps between the parties could be bridged. A more accurate assessment of the position of the principal parties on the Jerusalem question might have led them to understand that the holding of a summit of this sort was entirely premature.

Israel suffered from a more fundamental diplomatic failure of its own, beyond its misreading of the Palestinian position on Jerusalem. The structure of the peace process, whereby Israel has focused all its energies on an abstract, albeit worthy, goal of peace, while the Palestinians' diplomatic energies were concentrated on a concrete goal of achieving a Palestinian capital for a state in Jerusalem, inevitably led the negotiations for peace in the direction of the party with the more articulated objective -- namely, the Palestinian goal of sovereignty in Jerusalem.

Yet, a careful reading of the historical record of the Jewish presence in Jerusalem and an understanding of the international legal rights of the Jewish people to their historical capital might have led negotiators to take a stronger stand on behalf of Israel's rights in the city. This study was conceived with the purpose of providing both a more realistic understanding of the actual positions of the principal parties to the Jerusalem question and a deeper appreciation of the rights Israel possesses in Jerusalem for any future negotiations.

Defining Jerusalem's Borders

Historically, each party in the Arab-Israel conflict has a different geographic concept of Jerusalem. For most Israelis, Jerusalem means the current municipal borders of the city that were established in 1967 right after the Six-Day War (see Map 4); these include pre-1967 Israeli West Jerusalem (covering an area of 38 square kilometers), Jordanian-controlled East Jerusalem including the Old City (together 6 square kilometers; see Map 5), and portions of the West Bank that were annexed to Jerusalem but were not within the municipal boundaries of Jordanian Jerusalem, where new Jerusalem neighborhoods like Ramot and Gilo were established (64 square kilometers).

Palestinian Arabs do not recognize Israel's version of Jerusalem's municipal borders. Jerusalem suburbs built over the Green Line, like Har Homa (as well as Ramot and Gilo), are from their perspective not properly part of Jerusalem, but rather are West Bank settlements. While Palestinians speak sometimes about preserving the East Jerusalem municipality as an expression of defiance of Israel's 1967 annexation, the actual pre-1967 municipal borders decreed by Jordan are also not sacred in their eyes. Israeli negotiators, under the Barak government, tried to define a concept of Palestinian Jerusalem called al-Quds, as distinct from Israeli Jerusalem.

Palestinians and Jordanians refer to Palestinian villages, like Abu Dis, as being located within the pre-1967 Jordanian administrative county or district (muhafeza) of Jerusalem, that extended from just beyond its municipal borders as far as the Dead Sea. For this reason, major Palestinian leaders, like Faysal al-Husseini and Ahmed Qureia (Abu 'Ala), refuse to accept Abu Dis as an alternative capital to Jerusalem for a Palestinian state; instead, their claim is focused on the Old City.1 Nevertheless, some of the Israeli architects of the Olso Agreements, like Yossi Beilin, hoped during the Rabin government that it might be possible to find an area, like Abu Dis, that Palestinians could accept as part of Jerusalem, which Israelis viewed as being mostly beyond Jerusalem, proper. Only a small portion of Abu Dis actually falls within Jerusalem's municipal borders.

There are much wider definitions of Jerusalem, as well. The UN Partition Resolution of November 29, 1947, UN General Assembly Resolution 181 (II), recommended the establishment of Jerusalem as an internationalized corpus separatum (a separate entity) whose area would extend beyond Abu Dis in the east, to Motza in the west, to Shuafat in the north, and included Bethlehem and Beit Sahur in the south (see Map 1). While the Palestinian leadership of 1947-48 rejected Resolution 181, recently the PLO has revived its interest in the 50-year-old resolution (see below).

In the last decade, Israeli city planners have recognized that a large metropolitan Jerusalem has evolved beyond the city's municipal borders. What defines this metropolitan zone is the intense economic and social interdependence of the areas around Jerusalem with the core of the city: a large portion of the residents in these areas commute to Jerusalem for work. These areas also provide land reserves for industrial or residential growth of both the Israeli and Palestinian Arab populations; indeed, following the experience of urban growth patterns worldwide, whoever has demographic preponderance in the periphery of Jerusalem can eventually take control of its core. Upon presenting his government in July 1992, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin called for preserving a unified Jerusalem, under Israeli sovereignty, and strengthening Israel's position in "Greater Jerusalem."

Commuter traffic patterns can also define a metropolitan zone; within 30 minutes of downtown Jerusalem are Beit Shemesh to the west, Almog junction to the east, Ofra to the north, and Tekoa to the south.2 Both Israelis and Palestinian Arabs are dependent on Jerusalem's roadways to move between points in the metropolitan zone, and conversely, Jerusalem residents utilize the roadways of the periphery of the metropolitan zone to gain access to the city. Indeed, the Palestinians view Jerusalem as a key communications junction that connects the northern and southern halves of the West Bank.


Beyond the geographic issue, the Jerusalem question can be discussed on three different levels. There is the political level of who holds national sovereignty over the city, or its various parts. Related to political control is the issue of demography. During the Middle Ages, the Jewish presence in Jerusalem was repeatedly reduced or eliminated by Byzantine and Crusader rule, or as a result of military campaigns. But even before the rise of modern Zionism, a Jewish plurality was restored in Jerusalem under the Ottoman Empire in the early nineteenth century; in 1845, according to the Prussian Consul General in Jerusalem, there were 7,120 Jews out of a total population of 15,510.3 There has been a Jewish majority in Jerusalem since at least 1864, when out of a total population of 15,000 there were 8,000 Jews, 4,500 Muslims and 2,500 Christians, according to British consular sources.4

When Israel unified Jerusalem in 1967, 74.2 percent of the population was Jewish, while 25.8 percent was non-Jewish (mostly Palestinian Arab). The Arab population was almost entirely located in the eastern parts of the city, while no Jews lived in those areas that had been under Jordanian rule. (During the period of the British Mandate, Jews had lived in these areas, not only in most parts of the Old City but also in suburbs like Atarot [1920] and Neve Yaakov [1925]; while leading individuals, like Judah Magnes and Henrietta Szold, lived in the American Colony.)5 Roughly speaking, from 1967 to the present, Israel maintained the overall balance between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs in the city as a whole, although by 1993 the Jewish percentage of the population had declined somewhat to 71.7 percent.6 A further decrease to 69 percent took place between 1993 and 1999.7 Political control was a primary factor, although not the exclusive factor, affecting the demographic balance and distribution of various populations in Jerusalem.

Israelis are now the majority in those parts of Jerusalem that were annexed after 1967, although the Palestinians can offset this by using their demographic strength in the periphery of Jerusalem, especially in Ramallah and Bethlehem. For example, a large component of the Palestinian Jerusalem population was made up of residents of Hebron, who sought better employment opportunities. Moreover, the rate of building growth in Jerusalem neighborhoods populated by Palestinian Arabs (146 percent for the 1967-1995 period) has actually been greater than the rate of construction in Jewish neighborhoods (113.5 percent for the same period).8 Thus, political control has implications for demographic control, though under Israeli rule, the Palestinian Arab population has by no means suffered a demographic decline relative to the Jewish population. The Jerusalem question can also be discussed on a religious level that relates to the administration, control, or protection of the holy sites of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Finally, there is the municipal level of local government in Jerusalem, which is not a focal point of this study. These distinctions are important. Often, a solution to the municipal issues is expected to address the struggle for national sovereignty. Alternatively, a solution to the issue of sovereignty may not answer the question of the holy places. Finally, concessions made on one level can turn into broader concessions on another level; it is easy to imagine the Palestinians taking an Israeli concession on the municipal level and converting it into a concession on the national sovereignty level.

In any event, outlining the positions of the parties with reference to each level of the Jerusalem question is important. The following study will first look at the religious perspectives of each of the major faiths toward Jerusalem. Second, the focus will shift to the national political positions of each of the key parties to the Jerusalem question. Finally, the study will analyze how these positions affected the first detailed negotiations over Jerusalem at the July 2000 Camp David Summit and subsequent post-summit diplomacy.

The Religious Dimension: Jerusalem from the Standpoint of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity

On the face of it, there should be no reason why holy places that are situated under a state's national sovereignty should require a special international regime of any sort. Important sites to Eastern Orthodox Christianity in Istanbul are not under international protection, despite brief calls after the First World War to remove the city from Ottoman Turkish sovereignty.9 Islamic institutions in India came under assault by Hindu zealots in 1992, yet there are no concerted efforts to provide them with special international guarantees, even after a mosque in Ayodha, India, was destroyed. There is no international demand that the shrines of Shi'ite Islam that are located in Sunni-ruled Iraq come under international protection either. For a short period in the 1930s there was a fear in the Islamic world of Saudi rule in Mecca and Medina, in light of Saudi adherence to the puritanical sect of the al-Muwahhidun; thus suggestions arose for the internationalization of the Hijaz.10

Therefore, the demand for a special international status for the holy places in Jerusalem is not a product of international convention or customary law. Rather, it is due to the unique situation of Jerusalem as a city that is holy to several major faiths, and results from the cumulative impact of centuries of struggle, beginning with the Crusades and leading up to the rise of the Jewish state. Still, Israelis have wondered why calls for internationalization of Jerusalem have been strongest when Jewish sovereignty over the holy sites is involved. Thus, Prime Minister Golda Meir asked in the Knesset on October 26, 1971: "Why is it permissible for Christian holy places to be under the regime of a Muslim state, but it is considered to be a defect for those places to be under the regime of a Jewish state?"11 The demand for removing the holy sites of Islam and Christianity from Israel's sovereignty is part of the political struggle being waged against the Jewish state, since such demands have not been made with respect to other similar cases. In this context it is important to recall that Jerusalem had a historical legacy that created a direct connection between political control and religious access.

Access to Jewish Holy Places

Prior to the emergence of the State of Israel, political control was used mostly against Jewish religious access. Under the status quo, established by the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth century, Jews were allowed to pray at the Western Wall, but were prohibited from bringing Torah scrolls, chairs, or screens for separating the sexes, all of which are commonly used in synagogues worldwide. Muslim-Jewish tensions over Jewish attempts to break out of these religious restrictions were one of the catalysts of the 1929 Arab riots in British Mandatory Palestine.

The 1930 Shaw Commission, which was established by the British government after these disturbances, upheld this restrictive status quo against Jewish religious worship at the Western Wall, on the basis of the precedents that were fixed during Ottoman rule; it based its restrictive approach on Arab claims that the Western Wall was an integral part of the Temple Mount (al-Haram al-Sharif) and that it was Muslim-owned.12 Thus, Jewish religious freedom at the holy sites of Jerusalem did not appreciably improve under the British Empire, in comparison with what existed under the Ottoman Empire. From 1922 to 1939, the British generally pared back their commitments to the Jewish national home through such commissions and by means of successive White Papers, due to their wider imperial interests.13

But it was during the period from 1948 to 1967 that Jordanian political control led to the complete denial of Jewish religious access to the holy places of Judaism. After the fall of the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem in 1948, its Jewish inhabitants were expelled; fifty-eight of its synagogues were either destroyed or desecrated by being used as stables by the Palestinian Arabs. The great domed Hurva Synagogue and Porat Yosef Yeshivah were among those that were blasted into rubble. Hundreds of tombstones from the old Jewish cemeteries on the Mount of Olives were pulled out and used for paving roads or even for latrines. Indeed, neither Jewish nor Muslim Israelis were permitted to visit their holy places. Jews who were citizens of other countries were also denied the right to visit the Western Wall.

Jordan and Israel disagreed over the scope of Article 8 of their General Armistice Agreement of April 3, 1949; Israel believed that a special committee was to be formed to implement Israeli access to the holy places, while the Jordanians held that the scope of the committee included further negotiation over access to Nazareth and other sites in Israel.14 Regardless of these formal diplomatic differences, freedom of religion in Jerusalem was denied under Jordanian political control and Israel regarded this situation as a violation of the Armistice Agreement.

Jordanian political control limited Christian religious access, too. Israeli Christians were allowed to visit East Jerusalem only on Christmas.15 Jordanian law restricted land purchases by Christian institutions and intervened in the autonomy of their educational establishments; the Christian population of Jordanian Jerusalem fell from 25,000 in 1949 to 11,000 in 1967. During this entire period the UN did not pass any resolutions concerning minority religious rights in Jordanian Jerusalem. Indeed, Jordan's harsh stand on Jewish religious access was taken when the Hashemite Kingdom was relatively weak and still under British political guidance.

The Religious-Political Center of the Jewish People

The Jerusalem question not only requires that the ways in which political control have affected religious access be distinguished; it requires delineating how each faith views Jerusalem in religious terms. For Judaism, Jerusalem is a combined religious-political center of the Jewish people. No wonder it became part of the very definition of Zionism; the Second Book of Samuel (Chapter 5, Verse 7) relates how King David made the "fortress of Zion" his capital in approximately 1000 BCE.

Jerusalem served as the center of Jewish religious and national aspirations with the establishment by King Solomon of the Beit Ha-Mikdash, or the Temple, on Mt. Moriah. The Temple had a section known as the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant, containing the Ten Commandments and the Torah, was housed.16 While it stood, Jews were required to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year for the hag (Hebrew for pilgrimage festival, similar to hajj in Arabic). The First Temple was destroyed along with the rest of Jerusalem in 586 BCE by the Babylonians. After the return of Jewish exiles to Jerusalem in 538 BCE from Babylon, and the establishment of the Second Jewish Commonwealth, the Second Temple was constructed in 515 BCE. Even after the Temple's destruction by Roman armies in 70 CE, Jerusalem remained the direction of Jewish prayer. And the calendar of Jewish fast days, until modern times, followed the stages of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman Empire, culminating in the fast on the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av.

According to Jewish tradition, the sanctity of the Temple Mount area remains intact despite the Temple's destruction. Indeed, Rabbi A.I. Kook, the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the pre-state Yishuv, confirmed that the eternal sanctity of the Temple Mount continues to exist. Subsequent chief rabbis of Israel, such as I.Y. Unterman and Y. Nissim, in fact continued, after 1967, to warn Jews not to enter any part of the Temple Mount.17 Entry into the area where the Holy of Holies was located is absolutely forbidden by Jewish law today. A minority view put forward by former IDF Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren identified areas on the Temple Mount that were clearly outside the zones that were prohibited for Jews under Jewish religious law.

Jerusalem remained over the centuries one of the central focal points of Jewish religious and national consciousness. Reference to Jerusalem's restoration appears in the core prayer of the Jewish religion, the Shmona Esrai, recited three times daily. Moreover, the declaration "Next Year in Jerusalem" completes the most widely celebrated holidays in the Jewish religion among the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform movements: the Passover Seder and the Ne'ilah prayer of Yom Kippur. The purification of the Temple in Jerusalem is the central theme in the holiday of Hanukkah. Finally, the famous phrase of Psalm 137, "if I forget thee, oh Jerusalem, let my right hand wither," is recited by a father at the circumcision of his son and by a bridegroom at the end of the wedding service.

The greatest point of sanctity in Jerusalem may be the Temple Mount, but the Jewish attachment to Jerusalem is to the city as a whole -- and not just to its holy places. While Jewish political fortunes since the time of the first Jewish commonwealth have fluctuated, Jews always regarded Jerusalem as their capital. Each attempt to restore Jewish sovereignty, whether under the Bar-Kochba revolt of 135 CE or after the Persian conquest of Byzantine Judea in 614 CE, included an effort to reestablish Jerusalem as a national-religious capital.18 After the Arab conquest of Jerusalem in 638 CE, the main Jewish center of Talmudic learning moved back to Jerusalem from Tiberias; since Roman and Byzantine authorities had banned Jewish residence in Jerusalem, the Galilee previously served as a temporary Jewish spiritual center.19

In subsequent centuries, major figures in the Jewish world sought to visit or settle in Jerusalem despite the risks that this entailed, from Maimonides (Rambam) to the Baal Shem Tov (the founder of Hasidism).20 Three hundred rabbis from France and southern England came to reside in Jerusalem between 1209 and 1211 once it became permissible to do so after the fall of the Crusader Kingdom in 1187 and the end of the subsequent Mongol invasions.21 Nachmanides (Ramban) left Spain to live in Jerusalem in 1267, where he established a synagogue that still stands, though he ultimately settled in Acre. From the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries Jewish scholars arrived from Morocco, Yemen, and Italy, as well as students of the Gaon from Vilna. In short, Jerusalem remained a universal site of pilgrimage for the entire Jewish world.

Jerusalem's Role in Islam

Jerusalem plays a different role in Islam. It appears in the reference to the "Further Mosque," al-Masjid al-Aqsa, in the Koran (Sura 17), where Muhammad makes his night journey (al-Isra') from Mecca while mounted on a winged horse-like beast (al-Buraq). Even if this is not an explicit reference, common interpretation by most Muslims is that the "further mosque" is located in Jerusalem. According to Islamic tradition, Muhammad ascended to Heaven from Jerusalem (al-Mi'raj) and received the commandment that Muslims pray five times a day. The event is celebrated by Muslims on the 27th of the Islamic month of Rajab. While Jerusalem has only a very limited role in the life and prophetic revelations of Muhammad, still Muslims view Jerusalem as having special importance because it is associated with other divine messengers from the pre-Islamic period who appear in the Koran, such as David, Solomon, and Jesus.

The establishment of Jerusalem as the third most important place of Muslim pilgrimage comes from the Hadith, according to Orthodox Sunni tradition. It was for a short period the direction of prayer, qiblah, in the early Islamic community, later to be replaced by Mecca. Islamic tradition attaches importance to the entire area of the Temple Mount, al-Haram al-Sharif, and not just to the area of the Islamic shrines alone. But the harsh restrictions of Islamic law that apply to an area designated as haram, such as the area of the Islamic Holy Land in the Hijaz, do not apply to the Jerusalem case; for example, non-Muslims are restricted from visiting Mecca, but non-Muslims may visit the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

The area of the Western Wall was made into an Islamic religious trust, waqf, in the twelfth century, at the time of Salah ad-Din, for the benefit of Muslims of Moroccan origin, known as the Mughrabis. Indeed, the area of the Wall has significance to Muslims. By tradition, it is the area where Muhammad stabled his winged horse-like beast, al-Buraq, before he rose to heaven. Thus, the area of the Western Wall is known as al-Buraq al-Sharif; campaigns for its defense against what Palestinian Muslims perceived as Jewish encroachments were part of the Arab-Jewish struggle in the 1920s. It should be noted, however, that the identification of the Western Wall as the exact location where al-Buraq, by Islamic tradition, was tied, was a relatively recent development; until the eleventh century, for example, Muslim scholars pointed to the southern or eastern walls of the Temple Mount as the most likely location.22

While pilgrimage or hajj is one of the main pillars of Islam, the commandment to make pilgrimage only applies to Mecca, not to Jerusalem. The Islamic term for coming to Jerusalem for religious purposes is ziyara, a term applied by Shi'ites for visits to their holy sites in Iraq. Muslim daily prayers contain no reference to Jerusalem; nor is Jerusalem mentioned in prayers on special holidays.

The emphasis placed on Jerusalem's centrality to Islam has tended to emanate from Muslims who were situated geographically close to the city. Thus the Umayyad caliphate, based in Damascus, had a special interest in Jerusalem, due to its competition with Mecca. Mu'awiyah had himself declared the first caliph in Jerusalem, in the year 660.23 The Umayyads went so far as to establish Jerusalem as the site of Muslim pilgrimage, when 'Abd Allah ibn az-Zubayr was elected caliph in defiance of their wishes and seized Mecca in 683. In fact, it was the Umayyad caliph, 'Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, who built the Dome of the Rock with its great golden dome in 691, and decreed that it become an alternative to the Ka'bah in Mecca. 'Abd al-Malik's decree was annulled within a year after the reconquest of Mecca.

But beyond the core area of Syria-Palestine, there are indications that Jerusalem was not always at the heart of Islamic consciousness. This was especially true of the Abbasid caliphate, based in Baghdad, that replaced the Umayyads in 750. The great Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid, who made hajj to Mecca every second year, never came to Jerusalem, even though he frequented Syria because of his wars against the Byzantines. The same was true of his successor, al-Ma'mun, as well as most of the later Abbasid caliphs.24

The fall of Jerusalem to the Crusaders in 1099 did not bring about a strong initial reaction from the Persian-based Abbasid caliphate.25 Sultan Kamil, who, following upon his father who succeeded Salah ad-Din, was the Ayyubid ruler of Egypt, voluntarily surrendered Jerusalem in 1229 to the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II.26

Moreover, Muslim scholars, including the great Hanbali scholar, Ibn Taymiyyah, who lived in Damascus, were known to criticize the excessive veneration of Jerusalem as being adopted from Judaism.27 The Hanbali school of Islamic law is practiced in the Arabian Peninsula, particularly in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Thus, the relationship of Islam to Jerusalem was not always uniform, especially among those who lived in other parts of the Islamic world.

In the Jewish tradition, Jerusalem served as both a political and a spiritual capital. In the Islamic tradition, Jerusalem served as a spiritual center, but not a political center.28 The administrative center of Palestine after the Islamic conquests was Ramle, not Jerusalem. And subsequently, Jerusalem became subservient to Muslim empires based in Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo, or Istanbul, but never served as an Islamic capital by itself. It is noteworthy that early Islam demonstrated a relatively tolerant attitude to the Jewish presence in Jerusalem; Jewish resettlement in Jerusalem was renewed after Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab took the city in 638 and again after Salah ad-Din vanquished the Crusaders. The early caliphs permitted Jewish families to even take responsibility for the maintenance of cleanliness on the Temple Mount.29

Jerusalem's Sanctity to Christianity

Jerusalem has always been a location of special sanctity to Christianity. Among its holy sites are the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (in the Old City) where Jesus was buried, according to Christian tradition, as well as the Tomb of the Virgin Mary (in Nahal Kidron). The Sanctuary of the Ascension, on the Mount of Olives, is where Christians believe Jesus ascended to Heaven.

Originally the Christian attitude, both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, was far harsher to Jews in Jerusalem than the Islamic approach. Under Byzantine rule, Jews were explicitly forbidden to live in Jerusalem, according to the convention established by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the second century. Only once a year, on the ninth of Av, did the Byzantines permit Jews to gather at the Western Wall to mourn the destruction of the Temple.

During the Persian and Arab conquests of Jerusalem in the seventh century, Jewish resettlement in the city was permitted. But after the Christian conquest of Jerusalem by the Crusaders in 1099, Jews were again banned. As already noted, the Jewish community only began to recover after Salah ad-Din took Jerusalem from the Crusaders. While Jerusalem was the location of the teachings and crucifixion of Jesus, Christianity (unlike Islam and Judaism) underwent a process of "de-territorialization" over the centuries that began with St. Augustine, but also continued with Luther and Calvin.30

In many respects, the Christian connection to Jerusalem today poses far fewer difficulties than the Jewish clash with the Muslim world over the last decades. In the twentieth century, the Vatican position has undergone considerable evolution and is significant to analyze, given the Vatican's unique international role, including its eventual UN membership as an observer mission. During the 1940s the Vatican opposed Jewish control of holy sites. At the time of the debate over the Partition Plan and even following the War of Independence, it supported internationalization of the city. After 1967, however, it dropped this position in favor of internationalization of the Old City alone.

Archbishop Renato Martino, Permanent Observer of the Vatican in the UN, gave an address at Fordham University in April 1989 in which he proposed a special regime for the Old City that would guarantee the equality of rights of the three major religions. The question of sovereignty now appeared less important. By December 1993 the Vatican itself confirmed this view: the original Vatican position calling for internationalization and the rejection of Israeli sovereignty was modified in favor of international guarantees. On December 30, 1993, the "Fundamental Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Israel" was signed, by which they established diplomatic relations. In it, Israel affirmed "its continuing commitment to maintain and respect the 'status quo' in the Christian holy places." In October 1994, the Vatican created formal links with the PLO that fell short of full diplomatic relations.31

In early 1999, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Vatican's Foreign Minister, summarized the emerging position of the Vatican on the Jerusalem issue:

In the beginning, the Holy See supported the proposal for internationalizing the territory, the "corpus separatum" called for by the Untied Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 of November 29, 1947. In the years that followed, although the objective of internationalization was shown to be unattainable, the Holy See continued to call for the protection of the Holy City's identity. It consistently drew attention to the need for an international commitment in this regard. To this end, the Holy See has consistently called for an international juridical instrument, which is what is meant by the phrase "an internationally guaranteed special status."32

Tauran clearly stated that the Holy See did not claim "any competence to enter into territorial disputes between nations."

By March 21, 2000, the Vatican's approach to Jerusalem underwent a further significant development with the visit of Pope John Paul II to Israel. Unlike the 1964 visit of Pope Paul VI, who did not call upon any Israeli officials in the western section of Jerusalem, Pope John Paul II met with both the President of Israel, Ezer Weizman, and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in their Jerusalem offices. And while he described his visit as "a personal pilgrimage," nonetheless, the pope's decision to visit the holy places of Jerusalem in the Old City, under Israel's sovereignty, represented a significant further development in the Vatican's approach to the entire Jerusalem question.