Ramon Defends Plan to Split Jerusalem, Party Colleagues Say 'No'
Ramon Defends Plan to Split Jerusalem, Party Colleagues Say 'No'

Vice Premier Chaim Ramon, Israel’s chief negotiator with the Palestinian Authority spoke out Thursday night in defense of his plan to relinquish large parts of the capital to the Arabs.

By Friday morning he was qualifying his statement, claiming that Israel will not agree to divide Jerusalem before the PA proves that it can control terror and guarantee security.

In an interview broadcast on Voice of Israel government radio, Ramon insisted, “there could be no better partner for peace than PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas.”  He added immediately, however, that Abbas’s ability to live up to his commitments is “problematic.”

Ramon, a close confidante of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, has been negotiating with PA officials on his plan to offer approximately half of Judaism’s holiest city as the capital of a new Arab state.

Under the plan, Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem would be handed over to the PA. Jewish neighborhoods would remain under Israeli sovereignty. Most of the Old City – including the Temple Mount, the most sacred Jewish site on earth – would become part of a PA state.

“Does Israeli sovereignty in the refugee camp of Shuafat [an Arab neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem – ed.] strengthen Jerusalem as Jewish Jerusalem?” he asked. “Is that what we prayed for? Is that the hope of generations?”

Ramon compared his plan to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to retreat from Gaza. “He didn’t want to give up Gaza,” said the Vice Premier.  “He wanted to give up a burden.”

Several senior Kadima party colleagues expressed their vehement opposition to the plan Thursday night at the Kadima council’s first policy meeting.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter and Transporation Minister Shaul Mofaz all spoke out against the plan.

Mofaz warned Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the meeting that Jerusalem is not “a piece of real estate and no one has the authority to re-divide it.” 

The former Defense Minister predicted that “Hamas and Fatah will end up back in each others’ arms,” noting that “Kassams are still falling, Gilad Shalit is still there and today it is totally clear to us that an IDF operation will come. This is not the right time to pursue a permanent agreement or make concessions.”

IDF Corporal Shalit was kidnapped in June 2006 by Hamas terrorists from Gaza in a cross-border raid near the Kerem Shalom crossing. His condition and whereabouts are unknown.

Dichter said that any person who compares negotiations with the PA to negotiations with Jordan or Egypt is “completely detached from reality.”  He warned the Prime Minister not to engage in “desperate attempts to take shortcuts” during the negotiation process, adding that “It is a mistake to speak of a final agreement. We need to demand the demarcation of the borders, as described in the Kadima party’s election platform, which includes a united Jerusalem.”

Ramon argued back, saying “Jerusalem is no longer Zionist. It does not have a Zionist majority and in 20 years it will no longer have a Jewish majority….We will have to give up the Muslim parts,” he said.