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– Twenty-First Century Crusades?
Jerusalem again takes center
By Ryan Jones
As Israelis prepare to choose a new leader and the international
community circles, waiting for the day after when it will unleash
renewed pressure for the birth of a Palestinian Arab state, the future
status of the divinely-chosen city of Jerusalem has again taken center
|"All leading candidates
for the Israeli premiership vow they will never allow the city
to be divided between Jewish and Arab states..."
All leading candidates for the Israeli premiership vow they will never
allow the city to be divided between Jewish and Arab states, holding
fast to the traditional position that a united Jerusalem is the eternal
capital of Israel.
But cracks are beginning to show in that stand, at least as far as two
candidates are concerned.
A storm erupted in Israel Tuesday evening after the US magazine Newsweek
quoted Kalman Gayer, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, as
saying that if the incumbent wins a third term, he will cede parts of
eastern Jerusalem for the sake of a final status peace deal.
Sharon's office issued a statement Tuesday denying the claim.
However Finance Minister Ehud Olmert, the prime minister's top deputy
and a man known for releasing “trial balloons” regarding future policy,
has on more than one occasion stated Israel would eventually have to
relinquish the dream of an eternally united Jerusalem under Jewish
In refuting the accusations, Sharon also insisted he remains committed
to the internationally-backed Road Map peace plan, which he inferred
guarantees a united Jerusalem under Israel's control.
The Road Map in fact does no such thing, and instead defers the issue to
final status negotiations.
Senior Likud MK Uzi Landau pointed out that “from past experience we
know that when the prime minister rushes to deny, things are certainly
Sharon's Labor Party rival Amir Peretz has also gone on record as
backing Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem, but made clear last
week his primary goal, if elected leader of the nation, will be to
conclude a final peace agreement with the “Palestinians” within one
With both men's determination to be seen as Israel's ultimate peacemaker
out in the open, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia
reminded them Monday they would fail without serious concessions in the
There can be no “Palestinian” statehood and therefore no Middle East
peace unless the eastern half of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount,
comes under Arab rule, Qureia told a gathering of European
The European Union recently clarified its position on Jerusalem in a
still-unpublished report slamming Israeli activity and the imposition of
Israeli law in the eastern half of the city, where several hundred
thousand Jews live in the neighborhoods of Gilo, French Hill, Ramat
Eshkol and others.
EU officials said they will refrain from releasing the report at this
time in the run up to Israeli elections, though its contents are already
For its part, Israel's top ally the United States has never come out in
support of Israel's biblical and historical claim to all of Jerusalem,
and instead refers to the city as “disputed.”
The American consulate in Jerusalem does not print a country on official
documents issued in the city, such as passports or birth certificates.
Many in Israel fear that as the “peace” process progresses, a
combination of “Palestinian” intransigence, Western disregard for
Israel's ancient rights, and a headlong rush by leftist leaders such as
Peretz and Sharon to conclude a final peace deal at almost any cost
means the division of Jerusalem may not be far off.