Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has proposed to Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas that the international community participate in helping to determine the status of Jerusalem. He will meet with Abbas on Sunday, probably for the last time before Kadima party members go to the polls in less than three weeks to elect his replacement.
The international community's role would be that of advisors, but would give it large media exposure in attempts to divide the city and make it a shared capital of both Israel and a new Arab country. Leaders of the European Union (EU) and other Western countries have suggested that Jews not have exclusive sovereignty over its holy sites in the city.
Yasser Arafat, Abbas's predecessor, rejected a similar offer by then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000. His rejection of the proposal stemming from the Oslo Agreements helped spark the Oslo War, also referred to as the "second intifiada," that unleashed suicide bombings, machine-gun ambushes and rocket attacks that have killed more than 1,000 Israelis.
Prime Minister Olmert as recently as two years ago stated that Jerusalem is Israel's "undivided and eternal" capital, and the Shas party has said several times it will leave the coalition and topple the government if the status of Jerusalem is negotiated.
Prime Minister Olmert as recently as two years ago stated that Jerusalem is Israel's "undivided and eternal" capital.
However, the Prime Minister has successfully maneuvered negotiations around this obstacle while the Knesset remains out of session, and the media generally has avoided restraining him or questioning him or Shas on its previous promises. Technically, the agreement could allow Shas to claim that Prime Minister Olmert only is placing into effect a mechanism to discuss the status of Jerusalem in the future and that dividing the city is not being negotiated at the moment.
Possible international monitors under consideration are Jordan, the Vatican, Egypt and the Quartet, which includes Russia, the United Nations, the United States and the EU.
Prime Minister Olmert's proposal calls for a final status agreement to be reached within five years. If Abbas agrees, the deal could effectively bind the next government through international pressure.