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Host city for 2020 Olympics: Why not Jerusalem?

If Israelis and Palestinians agreed to cohost the 2020 Olympic Games, it could help them clear hurdles to sustainable peace.

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Vice President Biden recently visited the Middle East in an attempt to revive peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. Like other high-profile visits of recent years, his efforts fell short.

The violent status quo – one that drives many other conflicts across the region – has defied the peacemaking efforts of the world’s leading nations and the international community.

Yet there is one incentive for peace that could break the impasse and that neither Israelis nor Palestinians could refuse: an Olympic pledge.

The international community, led by the United States, should consider offering the Olympic Games of 2020 as an incentive for both Israelis and Palestinians to commit themselves to a successful peace process.

Here’s how it would work: World leaders should pledge to lobby for Jerusalem (or Al Quds in Arabic), when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) convenes in 2013 to make the decision about the host city for the 2020 Games.

However, the commitments by world leaders and by the IOC should be contingent on the achievement of a sustainable peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians in the intervening three years.

In addition, the two nations would need to jointly develop a viable plan for hosting the Games. The year 2013 would be the deadline for both the peace agreement and the hosting plan.

The reason why this plan can succeed where others have failed is threefold: It puts economic payoffs front and center, requires cooperation on a large scale, and involves sublimation of otherwise deadly instincts.

With investments pouring in, and reconstruction of infrastructure and job creation, the Olympic Games bring unmistakable and tangible economic benefits to their hosts. The effects on Barcelona and Beijing, for instance, have been obvious: If nothing else, notice the major improvements in infrastructure, employment, transportation, and a brief reduction in air pollution. Indeed, some call what Barcelona went through economically a “transformation.”

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