Weizmann vs Herzl
Sir, - Yehuda Avner's "Chaim Weizmann's tea with Mussolini" (January 23) was fascinating. At Weizman's 1934 meeting with Mussolini in Rome, Avner quotes Mussolini: "So what about Jerusalem - what do you say about its future?" Weizman replied: "One thing has to be made abundantly clear - if Jerusalem does not become a Jewish capital it cannot become an Arab capital. Jerusalem is the confluence of three religions. But it must be noted that the sanctity of Jerusalem for Muslims is something of a recent invention, whereas for the Jews Jerusalem is the City of David and, of course, for Christians it is the center of their holy places."
It is interesting to compare this with Theodor Herzl's ideas about Jerusalem, as expressed less than 40 years earlier in a diary entry dated May 7, 1896. Herzl related a meeting with an associate, who reported that the sultan of Turkey had declared he would never give up Jerusalem. The Mosque of Omar must remain forever in the hands of Islam.
Herzl's response: "We can get around that difficulty. We shall exterritorialize Jerusalem, so that it will belong to nobody and yet everybody; and with it the Holy Places, which will become the joint possession of all believers - a great condominium of culture and morality" (The Diaries of Theodor Herzl, Gollancz London 1958, page 127). Two years later, in Jerusalem, on November 2, 1898, Herzl wrote about his "idea of restricting the Old City to humanitarian institutions, cleaning it up, and building a New Jerusalem which could be viewed from the Mount of Olives as Rome [is] from the Gianicolo."