JERUSALEM – The United States, which has been mediating negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority here, has proposed a plan to divide Jerusalem, WND has learned.
The plan, divided into separate phases, among other things calls for Israel eventually to forfeit parts of the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site.
According to the first stage of the U.S. plan, which was obtained by WND, Israel would give the PA some municipal and security sovereignty over key Arab neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem.
The PA would be allowed to open some official institutions in Jerusalem, could elect a mayor for the Palestinian side of the city and would deploy police forces to maintain law and order.
The initial stage also calls for the PA to operate Jerusalem municipal institutions, such as offices to oversee trash collection and maintenance of roads.
After five years, if both sides keep their certain commitments called for in a larger principal agreement, according to the U.S. plan the PA would be given full sovereignty over the eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods and also over sections of the Temple Mount. The plan doesn’t specify which parts of the Temple Mount would be forfeited to the Palestinians.
After the five year period, the PA could deploy official security forces in Jerusalem separate from a police force and could also open major governmental institutions, such as a president’s office, and offices for the finance and foreign ministries.
The U.S. plan leaves Israel and the PA to negotiate which Jerusalem neighborhoods would become Palestinian. According to diplomatic sources familiar with the plan, while specific neighborhoods were not officially listed, American officials recommended sections of Jerusalem’s Old City as well as certain largely Arab Jerusalem neighborhoods such as Jabal mukabar, Beit Hanina, Shoafat, Abu Dis and Abu Tur become part of the Palestinian side.
As WND reported previously, many of the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, including all of Shoafat, a large Arab section, were constructed illegally on property owned by the Jewish National Fund, a Jewish nonprofit that purchases property using Jewish donors funds for the stated purpose of Jewish settlement.
According to diplomatic sources, the plan is being discussed by Israel and the PA but has not yet been accepted.
The sources said the plan was delivered earlier this month by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her trip to the region to push Israeli-Palestinian negotiations started at last November’s U.S.-backed Annapolis summit, which aimed to create a Palestinian state before the end of the year.
Since Annapolis, negotiating teams including Israeli Foreign Minister Tzippy Livni and chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qureia have been meeting weekly while Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA President Mahmoud Abbas have been meeting biweekly.
The U.S. is “very deeply involved” in all aspects of the negotiations, according to a top diplomatic source.
To demonstrate the level of U.S. involvement, the source pointed to recent U.S. supervision of Israeli commitments to dismantle about 50 West Bank anti-terror roadblocks and to bulldoze what are called illegal outposts, or West Bank Jewish communities constructed without government permits.
“The U.S. oversaw the removal of each and every roadblock, making sure the roadblocks were actually removed,” said the source.
“Also, even though Israel prepared a report of all illegal outposts and handed it to the Americans, U.S. officials have been doing their own very specific independent investigating to find each and every illegal outpost and then oversee their dismantlement,” the source said.
Olmert’s government has hinted a number of times it will divide Jerusalem.
In December, Israeli Vice Premier Haim Ramon said the country “must” give up sections of Jerusalem for a future Palestinian state, even conceding the Palestinians can rename Jerusalem “to whatever they want.”
“We must come today and say, friends, the Jewish neighborhoods, including Har Homa, will remain under Israeli sovereignty, and the Arab neighborhoods will be the Palestinian capital, which they will call Jerusalem or whatever they want,” said Ramon during an interview.
Positions held by Ramon, a ranking member of Olmert’s Kadima party, are largely considered to be reflective of Israeli government policy.
Olmert himself recently questioned whether it was “really necessary” to retain Arab-majority eastern sections of Jerusalem.
Israel recaptured eastern Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest site – during the 1967 Six Day War. The Palestinians have claimed eastern Jerusalem as a future capital; the area has large Arab neighborhoods, a significant Jewish population and sites holy to Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
About 231,000 Arabs live in Jerusalem, mostly in eastern neighborhoods, and many reside in illegally constructed complexes. The city has an estimated total population of 724,000.
To interview Aaron Klein, contact M. Sliwa Public Relations by e-mail, or call 973-272-2861 or 212-202-4453.