- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2000

If God controlled the Temple Mount, would He pick up the trash? If Jerusalem comes under shared sovereignty, who would police the streets, and whose God would control the shared holy sites? Such are the questions posed by Israeli journalists as the urgency of forging an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord forces to the table ever more creative but unrealistic possible solutions like divine or shared sovereignty over disputed areas.

It is doubtful, though, that President Clinton's last-ditch efforts will yield results. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has been feeling betrayed by Mr. Clinton, who has finally expressed his frustration at Mr. Arafat's stubbornness to compromise on final-status issues, and especially on sovereignty in East Jerusalem. With no tangible shift in position on either side since the Camp David peace summit collapsed, there was little place for the sense of urgency with which Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Mr. Clinton talked about the timing of a peace accord before meeting with Mr. Arafat in New York Wednesday.

True, both sides had agreed to come to an agreement by Sept. 13. But more important than self-imposed dates is how secure the peace accord would be. Both Mr. Arafat and Mr. Barak are right to think twice about what would happen if there is a change in status on the Temple Mount, which is legally under Israeli sovereignty and is Judaism's holiest site. The site, called Haram al Sharif in Arabic, is also holy to the Palestinians, and Mr. Arafat refuses to give up his demand for full sovereignty there.

Yet keeping such sites under a single (earthly) sovereignty, as it is now, seems the only workable solution. For both sides to concede that God should reign over the area begs the question: "Whose God?" As a third option, shared sovereignty is equally unrealistic at this point. Police squadrons would have to train and practice together. Courts would have to be controlled by both parties. What would happen if a Palestinian must then be sentenced by an Israeli judge? Would a Jewish driver get a license in Arabic? Would a Palestinian delicatessen be required to be closed on the Sabbath?

As each side considers the ramifications of the Middle East jousting match, they must think about how "peace now" translates. Agreeing to an accord before the effects of changing sovereignty have been provided for would only serve to heighten the violence and political tensions.

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