Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has proposed to leave Jerusalem united in an administrative sense following an Israeli withdrawal from its eastern section, a senior adviser to Abbas said on Wednesday.
Speaking to official Palestinian radio, Nimer Hammad said that the president’s recent proposal to make East Jerusalem the Palestinian capital and west Jerusalem the Israeli capital was received with “great international support,” while Israel continues to insist that Jerusalem remains united under its sovereignty.
“On the municipal level Jerusalem will remain united,” Hammad said. “A municipal council will be established for East Jerusalem, another for west Jerusalem, and a supreme council above both.”
Jerusalem remains one of the main points of contention between Israel and the Palestinians. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly stated that Jerusalem will remain undivided under Israeli sovereignty in any final status agreement. Finance Minister Yair Lapid told Israeli Radio on Tuesday that Jerusalem is not being discussed in the current negotiations and will not be divided.
“If the Palestinians want a state they must realize that it comes at a price and that they will not get everything they wish for,” Lapid said.
But Hammad, Abbas’s adviser, said that an Israeli refusal to withdraw from East Jerusalem would mean an end to peace talks.
“Any agreement that does not include withdrawal from East Jerusalem means that there will be no peace agreement,” he said.
At the Camp David peace summit held in July 2000, prime minister Ehud Barak insisted on maintaining Israeli sovereignty over the entire Old City, while allowing Palestinians to administer the Christian and Muslim Quarters as well as the Temple Mount. According to Barak’s plan, Israel would also maintain Palestinian neighborhoods adjacent to west Jerusalem.
Abbas, the chief Palestinian negotiator at the time, insisted on full Palestinian sovereignty over the Old City, including the Jewish Quarter and Western Wall, but supported “an open city and cooperation on municipal services.”
On September 16, 2008, prime minister Ehud Olmert went further, proposing to Abbas that Israel relinquish sovereignty over the Temple Mount and the Holy Basin to a joint non-sovereign committee comprising Israel, the Palestinians, the US, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.
“I’m still waiting for his phone call,” Olmert said in May.