Former Israeli PM: Jerusalem must be partitioned (AP) Associated Press) By AMY TEIBEL JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 05/20/12 2:32 pm ET)
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JERUSALEM – Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday urged Israeli
leaders to relinquish the idea of a unified Jerusalem if they truly
want peace, contending in a pair of interviews that years of
government neglect have kept the Jewish and Arab sectors irreparably
The comments, made as Israel marked the 45th anniversary of capturing
east Jerusalem, were nearly unprecedented for a mainstream Israeli
leader and put Olmert at odds with his successor, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Celebrating Israel´s control of the city on the Jewish
state´s "Jerusalem Day," Netanyahu declared his government was
committed to keeping it the country´s undivided capital.
"No Israeli government since 1967 has done even a smidgen of what was
needed in order to unify the city in practical terms. That is a
tragedy that is going to lead us, for want of another choice, to
making inevitable political concessions," Olmert told the Maariv
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and
immediately annexed the area, home to sensitive Jewish, Christian and
Muslim holy sites as well as a large Arab population. The
Palestinians hope to make east Jerusalem the capital of an
independent state including the neighboring West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Speaking Sunday evening from the site of a Jerusalem battle from that
war, Netanyahu said the city will not be partitioned.
"Israel without Jerusalem is like a body without a heart. And our
heart will never be divided again," he said.
The future of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest issues at the core of
the conflict. Jerusalem´s old city is home a compound sacred to Jews
as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. Jews
revere it as the site of their two biblical Temples and Muslims
regard it as Islam´s third-holiest site.
"There are those who believe that if we only divide Jerusalem, and
that means giving up the Temple Mount, they believe we will have
peace," Netanyahu said. "I am doubtful, to say the least, that if we
deposit that square of the Temple Mount with other forces, that we
won´t quickly deteriorate to a religious sectarian war."
"I know that only under Israeli control is accessibility and
religious freedom is ensured, and will continue to be ensured to all
the religions. Only under Israel will the quiet be preserved, only
under Israel will the peace between the religions be ensured,"
Olmert said the notion of a united Holy City is unrealistic. He
pointed to a number of Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, saying
they have not been integrated into the rest of the city.
"We can´t unite them and connect them to the real fabric of life in
Jerusalem, and except for grief, we haven´t gotten anything from
them," he said.
Olmert went through a dramatic political transformation late in his
As mayor from 1993 to 2003, he was an outspoken hard-liner opposed to
concessions to the Palestinians. Then, while prime minister from 2006
to 2009, he pursued a peace agreement envisioning broad territorial
concessions to the Palestinians before a corruption case forced him
to step down.
In those talks, Olmert offered to turn over parts of east Jerusalem
to the Palestinians, and have Jerusalem´s Old City, home to the most
sensitive religious sites, be administered by an international
consortium including Israelis, Palestinians, Americans, Jordanians
Olmert claimed his talks with the Palestinians came tantalizingly
close to an agreement. The Palestinians have said Olmert did not go
Since taking power three years ago, Netanyahu has repudiated Olmert´s
willingness to partition the city. With a newly expanded coalition,
Netanyahu has cemented a formidable majority for his hardline
The Palestinians have refused to conduct peace talks with Netanyahu
unless he halts settlement construction in east Jerusalem and the
West Bank. About 200,000 Israelis live in east Jerusalem, approaching
the Arab population of about 280,000. Netanyahu says talks should
resume without any preconditions.
Israel marked Sunday´s anniversary with a series of marches and
speeches throughout the city. The Palestinians´ chief peace
negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said the Israeli celebrations were "clear
proof" that Israel is not interested in peace. "Clearly, this
behavior reflects the mentality of a colonizer, rather than a
supposed peace partner."
Also Sunday, Israel´s Shin Bet security service said it had arrested
nine Palestinians who tried to kidnap Israelis in the West Bank. The
agency said in a statement that the ring made three unsuccessful
kidnapping attempts in March, hoping to ransom the Israelis for
Palestinian prisoners in Israel.
Last year, Israel released more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in
exchange for a captive Israeli soldier. (© 2012 The Associated Press
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