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Knesset Majority: ‘Don’t Divide Jerusalem!’

In a rare show of non-partisan unity, a majority of Knesset Members signed a petition this week calling for the eternal unity of Jerusalem.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 10/19/2007, 10:21 AM

More than half of Knesset Members from both the opposition and the coalition factions have signed a petition against plans to hand over parts of Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority.

The document rejects plans to relinquish Israel’s sovereignty over holy sites in the Old City and the City of David, just outside the Old City walls, as well as possible intentions to give eastern Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods to the PA.

Likud MK Yisrael Katz and other Likud MKs spearheaded the drive, and they were quickly joined by nearly 30 coalition MKs, including thirteen members of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s own Kadima party and all of Shas.

Two Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) MKs, David Rotem and Esterina Tartman, signed the petition, as did Yoram Marciano of Labor - the only Labor MK to do so.  Four ministers also signed the petition, including Yaakov Edry and Ze’ev Boim of the Kadima party, and two others from the Gil Pensioners’ party.

“It is possible that Olmert could divide Jerusalem and we would have to face that reality, but it’s illegitimate, especially since he’s putting Jerusalem on the agenda to distract from his other problems,” said Likud MK Reuven Rivlin.

Olmert: Knesset Not Necessary
The prime minister asserted earlier this month that he does not need the Knesset’s approval to reach a joint declaration with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, including one that might include an agreement to hand over parts of Jerusalem to the PA. He has said that Jerusalem is not currently on the negotiating table, but several plans to divide the capital have emerged from Olmert’s close associates.

Prime Minister Olmert denied reports earlier in the week that his government planned to give away parts of the sacred capital, but avoided specifically defining the city limits, giving rise to speculation that he indeed intends to give up Israel’s control over some of Jerusalem.

Summit Still Not Certain
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said she would meet again today (Friday) with PA negotiators in an attempt to come to a pre-summit agreement.  Abbas said this week that the PA's participation in the US-sponsored summit was not a certainty, and that the PA would not retreat from its demands for a joint detailed pre-summit declaration with Israel.  Israel insists on only a general declaration, with details to be ironed out later.