Labor Party MK Eitan Cabel said Saturday that Israel should transfer control of the Arab East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Issawiya and Beit Hanina to the Palestinian Authority, but keep the capital united.
Speaking at a cultural event in northern Israel, Cabel, who heads the opposition’s Labor’s Knesset faction, said the restive Palestinian areas of Jerusalem should be handed over to PA control in the long term.
“A united Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and thus it shall remain with any future agreement [with the Palestinians], but Palestinian villages such as Issawiya and Beit Hanina aren’t really part of the city, and in the long term Israel’s clear interest is to transfer them to Palestinian control,” Cabel said.
His comments came amid weeks of unrest in the capital, with daily riots in the predominantly Arab neighborhoods of Silwan, Shuafat, and Wadi Joz. Minor clashes erupted in the West Bank Friday after weekly Muslim prayers, while security forces deployed heavily around Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque in the Old City’s Temple Mount compound. Police reopened the compound to Muslim worshippers having closed it Thursday after a Palestinian man, Mutaz Hijazi, the main suspect in the Wednesday shooting of Rabbi Yehudah Glick, was killed in the mixed Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Tor.
The neighborhoods of Issawiya and Beit Hanina are currently governed by Israel under the Jerusalem municipality. Israel annexed what had been the Jordanian-controlled East Jerusalem and Old City after 1967’s Six Day War and offered permanent residence status to the area’s inhabitants. Some reports claim that in 2000, then-prime minister Ehud Barak proposed a division of the city in negotiations with late PLO-leader Yasser Arafat, in which Beit Hanina, Issawiya and Shuafat would be given to the Palestinian Authority. In 2008, then prime minister Ehud Olmert offered to relinquish the West Bank, with one-for-one land swaps, to divide Jerusalem into Israeli- and Palestinian-sovereign areas, and to relinquish Israeli sovereignty in the Old City area in favor of a non-sovereign international trusteeship. PA President Mahmoud Abbas did not respond to the offer.
The Netanyahu government insists that Jerusalem will remain Israel’s undivided capital. The Palestinians seek East Jerusalem and the Old City as the capital of a future independent state, and are set to present a resolution to the United Nations Security Council shortly demanding a timetable for an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines..
Cabel also remarked that the next election cycle will likely see a drastic shift in the political map, and that Israel’s centrist and left-wing parties could unite to form a bloc to compete with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.
A Channel 10 commentator claimed on Friday night, quoting very senior coalition sources, that Netanyahu has taken a decision to call elections in the course of next year.
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