The independent Palestinian news agency Maan published a Hebrew document late last week that purports to represent the “principles” apparently agreed on in negotiations between Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. While the offices of both men denied any connection to it, comments by Israeli President Shimon Peres confirm some of the main points. On one of the most controversial points, that Israel has agreed to surrender sovereignty the Old City of Jerusalem, Peres pointedly refused to comment.
Despite the denials, then, there is reason to believe that the draft does represent or approximate, the emerging joint declaration between Olmert—who has kept negotiations from almost all of this minister—and Abbas, who has doubtful authority to negotiate a deal since his supporters were expelled from Gaza and his headquarters there conquered by Hamas. That apparently hasn’t stop the Israeli Prime Minister, evidently with the blessing of eminence grise Peres, who long has pushed for a deal that would redivide Jerusalem.
The third point says that “There will be two capitals in Jerusalem, that of Israel and that of Palestine, and they will be sovereign over the Jewish and Arab neighborhoods, respectively. The two municipalities will cooperate for the enhancement of the quality of life of all the residents.” The language would seem to indicate that Israel has abandoned its position that the Palestinian capital would be in Abu Dis, not in the central part of Jerusalem.
Indeed, the document suggests that there would be a “special administration” presumably under the authority of an international or multinational authority to administer the holiest of sites in Jerusalem, and possibly the entire Holy Basin, including the Old City in its entirety. “Special arrangements will be emplaced to preserve free access to all the holy sites of the various religions. A special administration will be established to maintain the two nations’ bonds with the holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem.”
Here was Robert J. Avrech’s response to the news on his blog Seraphic Secret:
I admit when I’m wrong. I’m enough of a man to step back and take responsibility for my mistakes.
I’ve libeled Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
I’ve said that he’s not fit to be Prime Minister.
I’ve said that he’s not a strong, decisive leader.
I was wrong.
He’s a great leader, a great Prime Ministerâfor the so-called Palestinian people.
For the Jewish people, he’s only suitable to lead some ghetto Judenrat.
Frankly, I don’t believe this could be true. Giving back Gaza was one thing: Even Egypt didn’t want that God-forsaken strip. The West Bank has been a slower process because Judea and Samaria represent much of the biblical Land of Israel. But the Old City, the section of Jerusalem that Ben-Gurion lost during the War of Independence and Israel regained in ‘67, the site of the Temple Mount, the holiest place in the world—no way an Israeli politician could give up sovereignty of that land.