Livni Slams Olmert Peace Plan, 'Won't Divide Jerusalem'
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni adamantly denied allegations Friday that she had "sold" Jerusalem in negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and said she vehemently opposed such a deal.
The Kadima party chairwoman was accused by her top rival in the upcoming elections for the prime minister's seat, Likud party chairman MK Binyamin Netanyahu, of conspiring with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to offer the PA sweeping concessions that included dividing Jerusalem and internationalizing its holy sites.
Livni's spokesman firmly denied the allegations Friday afternoon, telling Israel National News, "The Minister believes that Israeli sovereignty -- religiously, nationally, culturally and strategically -- must be maintained over a united Jerusalem, including and foremost the religious sites."
The Israeli position negotiated by Livni, he said, was that "Jerusalem will be kept united."
"Minister Livni was not in the room with Prime Minister Olmert and Chairman Abbas when they had their conversation about this agreement. This is something that someone on the other side did," added her spokesman Gil Messing. "It was not the work of Minister Livni. She is against it in all terms that are possible to elaborate and she said so yesterday in the Cabinet."
It is equally clear, he warned, that even in a deal that Livni would support, Jews in Judea and Samaria would end up losing their homes. How many, he could not say. "I don't know the numbers. As many [sic] Jews will remain in their houses where they are right now, however, there will be a division of the land. It is untrue and unfair to say otherwise."
However, whether the plan would ultimately come to fruition will depend on the PA, he added. "It will be an agreement that will represent all of Israel's security needs, and is subject to any change of situation on the ground, including the fight against terrorism," he said, "most importantly the complete dismantling of terrorist infrastructure in the Palestinian Authority areas."
Olmert 'Peace Plan': Divide Jerusalem, Give Up Holy Sites
According to the Hebrew-language daily Yediot Acharonot, Olmert agreed to give up Jerusalem's holy sites under an international authority in a plan similar to that of the "Holy Basin" concept advanced during the administration of former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
Also under the plan, the Jewish State would transfer Arab neighborhoods in the eastern section of the capital to the PA.
Interestingly, the move was predicted by Netanyahu Wednesday morning in a keynote address by at the Jerusalem Conference at about the same time that Olmert was meeting in the capital with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell.
The plan also calls for at least 60,000 Jewish residents to be expelled from their homes in Judea and Samaria, and Israel would withdraw from most of its territory in the region, with the exception of several large populated blocs. The operation would dwarf the 2005 Disengagement from Gaza, a move which has brought one million Israelis under rocket fire from Gaza, besides leaving thousands jobless and in transitional housing to this day.
The new Arab state that would be formed within Israel's current borders would also be provided with geographic contiguity through a series of tunnels and a new highway that would be built to connect Gaza with Judea and Samaria.
However, the prime minister refused to allow the immigration of millions of Arabs and their descendants who fled their homes in the State at the behest of Israel's invading enemies during the 1948 War of Independence, a demand the PA has called the "right of return."
24-hour Media Silence: 'Private Diplomatic Conversation'
A curious cloak of silence by local and international media stifled news of the agreement for almost 24 hours after the initial report was published in the Thursday morning front-page article in Yediot Acharonot.
The paper reported that Olmert had closed on the deal with Mitchell during their meeting Wednesday and provided details about the plan.
However, by nightfall it was impossible to find a trace of the report, which had inexplicably disappeared from the media radar. An internet search revealed not one reference to the day's discussion, with the exception of a lone AFP article in a Philippine newspaper.
Olmert spokesman Mark Regev brushed off late-evening attempts by Israel National News to obtain information about the agreement. "You can ask me anything you want about it," he said," but I don't want to confirm or deny anything. It was a private diplomatic conversation," he said.
Netanyahu: Vows Not to Uproot Jews
Netanyahu lost no time in going on the offensive Friday morning, telling listeners in an interview on IDF Army Radio that he would not uproot any Jews from their homes if he is elected prime minister in the upcoming polls.
The Knesset Opposition leader also said he would not be bound by any deals concluded by the prime minister, and accused Livni of making dangerous concessions in her role as head negotiator with the Palestinian Authority.
"She said she was a partner to all the decisions made by the Kadima government," he said. "Now we see what she decided and what she conceded."
Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, Avraham Zuroff and Yehudah Kay contributed to this report.