Jerusalems future provokes rabbi, prof at S.F. forum

Jerusalem's future isn't up for debate only in Israel.

At a forum last week in San Francisco, a local rabbi and an international relations professor offered diametrically opposing views on the future rule of the holy city.

"Israel is justified historically, religiously and politically in ruling Jerusalem as its capital," said Rabbi H. David Teitelbaum, director of the Board of Rabbis of Northern California.

San Francisco State Professor Dwight Simpson countered that "Israel has seriously disqualified itself" from the role of ruling the city.

Speaking before an audience of about 70 at the Commonwealth Club on Thursday of last week, Teitelbaum and Simpson addressed the Israeli-Palestinian final-status negotiations on Jerusalem. Under the Oslo Accords, the city's future is supposed to be determined by May 4, 1999.

Teitelbaum went first, speaking forcefully and invoking psalms.

"I cannot imagine any Israeli government that will agree to anything less than a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty," he said.

He cited Israel's record of protecting holy sites of all faiths since it won the 1967 Six-Day War and united the city.

"For 19 years, Jordan prevented access to the holy places, made the inhabitants of Jerusalem live in a divided city, destroyed synagogues and cemeteries. There has been an unrelenting refusal of Arab countries to accept Israel," said Teitelbaum.

"Since Israel united Jerusalem, the holy places have never been so protected nor has there been freer access to them," he said. He pointed out that under a provision of Israeli law, the Temple Mount is ruled by the Supreme Muslim Council, known as the Wakf, which forbids Jews from praying or bringing Jewish texts there.

Simpson spoke in a more low-key style but used equally strong language.

"Israel demolished thousands of Arab homes" and closed Jerusalem "to Palestinians for work, study or prayer," he said.

Simpson also charged that Israelis who want to build on Har Homa in southeastern Jerusalem, for example, "intended to encircle and change the Arab character of Jerusalem." Calling the activity a violation of the Geneva Convention, he said that Israelis have tried to "repress and intimidate Jerusalem Arabs with the hope that they would give up and migrate."

Simpson said Israel's policy of "one city, whole and united forever under Israeli sovereignty" is unrealistic.

Citing the failure of the British Empire as an example, he said that "if Israel continues to rule on its own terms it will set the stage for literally endless warfare."

In his closing remarks, Teitelbaum suggested two possible scenarios for Jerusalem's future. The first is a "borough system," originally proposed by former Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek. The second proposal would make Abu Dis, a suburb east of Jerusalem, the Palestinian capital.

Israel and the future state of Palestine could be converted into a "single state, ruled by political majority, one man, one vote," Simpson proposed.

"Who should rule Jerusalem?" he asked rhetorically. "They all should rule."

The speakers didn't respond directly to one another's comments but answered questions from audience members on Israel's security and its fears about sharing control of Jerusalem.

After the forum, Teitelbaum said he regretted not having a chance to dialogue with Simpson. In particular, he wanted to address the professor's comments on Har Homa.

"Since Israel is a democracy, anyone who feels there has been abuse or unfairness has the courts as a resource of appeal," Teitelbaum said.

Simpson declined to respond to the remark.