Tuesday, October 09, 2007

"We must control all of east Jerusalem'

Any solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will require the establishment of a Palestinian state with its capital in all of east Jerusalem, Palestinian Authority Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Adnan Husseini told The Jerusalem Post Monday. The comments by Husseini, who previously served as director of the Wakf (Muslim religious trust) that administers the Temple Mount, highlighted the immense gap between the parties regarding Jerusalem, and cast doubt on whether Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's longstanding proposal to cede Arab neighborhoods on the city's periphery as part of a final peace agreement could serve as basis for such an accord.
"The outline for Jerusalem is very clear," Husseini said. "East Jerusalem is for the Palestinians and west Jerusalem is for the Israelis."

A division of the city that would leave Jewish neighborhoods under Israeli control and put Arab neighborhoods under Palestinian control was at the core of then-US president Bill Clinton's peace plan that Yasser Arafat rejected seven years ago at Camp David.

Husseini said that he had "no information" about a reported agreement between Olmert and PA President Mahmoud Abbas that would give Jordan control over parts of the Old City - including the Temple Mount - as part of a peace agreement.
The London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi daily reported that Abbas and Olmert had agreed to make Jordan the guardian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, with the arrangement to be supervised by Jordan, Israel, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations.

Husseini said there was "not a problem" between Palestinians and the Jordanians over who would run the Muslim holy sites, noting that such an arrangement already existed today and stressing that the problem was over the future of the city.
Wakf officials declined comment on the report Monday.
Olmert has said he was willing to cede at least six outlying Arab neighborhoods in a final peace treaty.

Husseini scoffed at such an offer, however, calling it "a street here and a street there."

But the issue of who will control Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem pales in comparison to the difficulty in finding a solution for the Old City, and particularly its holy sites.

The Temple Mount, which is Judaism's holiest and Islam's third holiest site, is currently under Israeli sovereignty, and a delicate status exists whereby Israeli police are in charge of security and the Wakf administers the site.
The issue of who will control the Temple Mount is considered to be one of the hardest issues for negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Israel has long preferred Jordanian involvement in the administration of the Temple Mount, considering them to be more moderate than the Palestinians.
Jordanian engineers recently repaired a bulge on the Mount's southern supporting wall after two years of wrangling between Israeli and Palestinian officials over which side would fix the ancient structure.

Last year, the European Union-funded Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies concluded that Israel and the Palestinians should allow the international community to oversee the administration of Jerusalem's holy sites, including the Temple Mount.
The study offered five solutions to the question of sovereignty over Jerusalem's holy sites: full Israeli control; full Palestinian sovereignty; territorial division of the capital's basin between the sides, with international supervision to help monitor and settle disputes; a distribution of powers between the two sides, with international backing; and entrusting authority over the sites to an international body that can delegate specific powers to the sides.

The researchers concluded that entrusting authority over the holy sites to an international body was the preferable and most realistic option, provided that both sides could put their faith in such an international body.

In contrast, former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk has said that the issue is best left untouched since there is no solution that would be acceptable to both sides.

"In the Middle East and in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular some problems do not have solutions," Indyk, who served as ambassador during the failed Camp David talks, said in Jerusalem last year. "You should leave well enough alone."

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