After His Jerusalem Decision, Trump Needs to Promote Peace Talks

A hundred years after being expelled from Spain with all the Jews in 1492, my mother's family became one of the first five Sephardic families to settle in the Old City of Jerusalem.

In 1643, a house was built and bequeathed from father to son, until the Jordanians conquered the Jewish Quarter during Israel's 1948 War of Independence.

My father's father emigrated after World War I as a young Zionist from Poland, settled in Jerusalem and joined the Hagana , a Jewish paramilitary organization under the British Mandate of Palestine.

When the dramatic vote on the establishment of the State of Israel took place at the United Nations General Assembly on November 29, 1947, he was glued to the radio, writing down every country's vote and adding it up: 33 for, 13 against, 10 abstained.

He was killed by Arab troops during the War of Independence while escorting a humanitarian supply convoy to Jerusalem.

Until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the Jewish People had no land and no sovereignty after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD. From a scattered Diaspora, oppressed and persecuted, Jews remembered Yerushalayim , cherished it, and prayed facing the Old City from wherever their communities were.

And since Israel's establishment, Jerusalem as its eternal capital has been a self-evident fact.

So when President Trump stated, "It is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," he was right.

But we Israelis do not need Donald Trump to tell us that. His words, while nice and perhaps important, changed nothing on the ground. Deeds are what will make a positive, historic impact – specifically, a US-led, hands-on process that leads to a reality of two states for two peoples.

GettyImages-890854168
Israeli security forces run after a molotov cocktail was thrown during clashes with Palestinian protesters at the main entrance of the occupied West Bank town of Bethlehem, on December 12, 2017. Palestinians continue to clash with Israeli security forces after the US President Donald Trump's declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital sent shockwaves through the region earlier in the week. MUSA AL SHAER/AFP/Getty

I grew up in a divided Jerusalem and was fourteen in 1967 when Israel, attacked by five Arab states supported by eight additional ones, swiftly conquered the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria, bringing Biblical areas and the holiest of holies, the Old City's Temple Mount, under Israel's control.

A decade later I was among the thousands of Jerusalemites lining the streets to enthusiastically greet Egypt's President Anwar Sadat who courageously accepted Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin's invitation to speak at the Knesset in Jerusalem, paving the way to the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement. Just four years earlier, I was fighting against the Egyptian enemy.

At the July 2000 Camp David summit in which I participated -- one of many attempts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian agreement—US President Bill Clinton urged Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat to negotiate Jerusalem directly with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Arafat replied: "I will not sign without Al-Quds (Jerusalem)."

He blew up the summit because he was unwilling to compromise on Jerusalem, insisting on sovereignty over the entire Old City, except the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall.

Now that Trump has dramatically placed Jerusalem – the most volatile of issues -- at the forefront of his administration's attempt to make a deal and Vice President Pence will visit there next week, they and their Middle East team would be wise to build on two previous efforts at maintaining peace.

First, in 1967, Israel made a great contribution to peace in Jerusalem and cooperation between Muslims, Christians and Jews when it opened up all the holy sites in the Old City to all faiths for the first time since the British Mandate ended twenty years earlier.

Since then Israel has applied arrangements to the Temple Mount regarding access and worship, most notably that Jews are allowed to visit during special hours but not to pray.

Second, the contours of an agreement on the broad Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general and Jerusalem in particular are well known.

The Jerusalem that generations of Jews prayed to and longed for did not comprise the eastern Arab neighborhoods such as Issawiyyah, Shuafat, Jabel Mukabber, Bet Hanina – to name but a few – that were captured in 1967 and integrated into Jerusalem by extension of its municipal borders.

Thus, in an eventual final status agreement, metropolitan Jerusalem will include two capitals: Jewish Yerushalayim and Palestinian al-Quds , divided by a clear border.

Over 300,000 Palestinians live in Arab neighborhoods within Jerusalem's jurisdiction. They are not Israeli citizens, nor will they ever be. There can be no justification for Israel's annexing them.

Jerusalem's Old City and surroundings, however, must remain whole, and there must be special arrangements to ensure free access for members of all faiths. In late 2008, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert handed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas such a proposal for a Special Regime in the Historic Basin and the Old City, as part of a permanent status package. Abbas replied, "I'll get back to you," but never did. Trump and his team should resurrect this proposal.

The Jewish People have a right to self-determination in its own state of Israel and the Palestinian People have the right to self-determination in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Trump's Jerusalem announcement, which inflamed tensions but changed nothing, can have a positive effect if he follows his words with constructive action. He has to place his controversial statement into the larger context of a coherent plan leading toward an agreement based on the principle of two states for two peoples and including two capitals in the area of Jerusalem.

That would be in the best interests of all parties concerned.

Gilead Sher, a principal of the Israeli non-partisan organization Blue White Future, was Israel's senior negotiator at Camp David and Chief of Staff for Prime Minister Ehud Barak. He heads the Center for Applied Negotiations at Israel's Institute for National Security Studies