A New Tack in the Holy Land
Some years ago, Tom Clancy wrote a novel that included elements of the Arab-Israeli conflict. One of his best, he came up with what seems to be an option to be explored.
While it is easy to fantasize about fictional characters and scenarios, there is a lot that can be gleaned from a prominent author’s insight. One of the things that sets Clancy apart, is his research and his ability to weave it into his fictional story lines. Ken Follett and Dan Brown are two others who are very good at embroidering historical facts into their novels. The novel, “Sum of All Fears”, is a good example of that insight. The scenario opens with an Israeli soldier shooting a peaceful Palestinian protester, who sat down in a Ghandiesque fashion and refused to budge. Just like Martin Luther King’s message of peaceful disobedience, the young Palestinian staged is own refusal to move to the back of the bus.
The shooting catapults the conflict back into the headlines again, prompting a vain, American President to want to fix it once and for all. His plan was to have a third party administer a “free” Jerusalem. The author decided it was to be the Swiss Guards to ensure the peace, while a troika consisting of the highest ranking spiritual leaders in the city, would make group decisions on the administration of the city. An Imam, a Rabbi, and a Bishop, or maybe a Cardinal would have to collaborate in order to run the city. Unconventional, perhaps, but who knows until it is tried?
Certainly, the concept of a “free” city is not unheard of. In the last century, cities such as Shanghai, Danzig, and Trieste were free cities. In China, a good part of the city was run by and called “The International Settlement”. At odds with Japanese occupiers, it provided a haven for indigent Chinese. Trieste, situated between Yugoslavia and Italy, was sort of a free trade zone, separating and East and West. Danzig was port city in corridor of land on the Baltic Sea, which was administered by the League of Nations. Perhaps a similar philosophy can applied to the troubled region in the Middle East.
If Jerusalem was declared a Free City by, say, the UN, and whose civil rights for all inhabitants could be ensured by third party ala Tom Clancy, who is to say it wouldn’t work? To be fair, there would be some difficulty and mistrust, but virtually everything else has been tried. Jimmy Carter denied sleep to his staff and the stubborn parties and strong armed Israel and Egypt into signing the Camp David Accords. Bill Clinton had Yasser Arafat in the White House many times, giving away the store in return for Peace. Yet, old wounds are hard to heal in a region where tribal and cultural mistrust are a given, so a new tack is needed.
A Free Jerusalem administered by a troika of religious leaders with civil leaders, would go a long way to fairness to city who his revered by most faiths. Further, it should have the effect of lessening cultural mistrust, and lead to a non-discriminatory society. With the neutral Swiss patrolling and keeping the peace, it is something that just might work.
The Swiss have a long history of being a neutral and fair mediator. Since the 1500’s, the Swiss Guards have guarded the Vatican with their colorful uniforms, (designed by Michelangelo) halberds and faith. But the flair should fool no one; they are a modern, up to date, state of the art, military force. Loyal only to the Pope, they have protected the hub of Catholicism for centuries. Why not create a unit of the Guards to keep the peace in Jerusalem?
There would differences, of course, between their mission in Rome, and one in the Middle East. They couldn’t be loyal to one religiously leader or another, which might create a problem as the Guards are required to be Catholic. But if the Swiss could swear loyalty to only keeping the peace and fairly mediating disputes, as well as taking orders from a civil authority with unanimous spiritual oversight, why not try it?