New York A majority of Knesset Members (MKs) have signed a petition calling for Jerusalem to remain undivided in response to many statements by Israeli government ministers and media speculation that the Olmert government, at the upcoming Annapolis conference, intends proposing the division of the city by handing over parts of it, including the Old City and Temple Mount, to the control of the PA. The petition drive was initiated by Likud MK Yisrael Katz and has attracted support from some 30 Olmert government coalition MKs, including ministers Yaacov Edri and Zeev Boim (both Kadima, Olmerts ruling party) and the two Pensioners Party ministers. Additionally, the Transportation Minister (and former Defense Minister) Shaul Mofaz said he would sign it as well. Thirteen Kadima MKs signed, including Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Tzahi Hanegbi, and all Pensioners Party MKs . Katz said the petition drive was intended to send a message to Olmert that he has no mandate to negotiate Jerusalems future. The Kadima platform opposes any division of Jerusalem.
Likud MK Reuven Rivlin said that Unfortunately the man who was mayor of Jerusalem is talking about dividing the city in order to take the publics attention away from the problems he is facing, like the Winograd Committee … It is possible that Olmert could divide Jerusalem and we would have to face that reality, but its illegitimate, especially because hes putting Jerusalem on the agenda to distract from his other problems.
Jerusalem city council opposition leader, Nir Barkat, has also started a campaign for Jerusalem, asking the public to sign a petition supporting keeping Jerusalem united, on the Web site jer.org.il. He stated, There seems to be a feeling among our leaders that they can cut their losses and give up on keeping a united Jerusalem with a Jewish majority … This feeling of desperation has to be replaced immediately and we intend to help make that happen ( Jerusalem Post, October 18).
Additionally, Shas Party chairman Eli Yishai said yesterday that Shas, a major coalition partner in the Olmert government, will leave the coalition if there was any mention of Jerusalem in the document to be prepared at the U.S.-sponsored summit. Yisrael Beiteinu, another coalition partner, threatened similar action. Yishai noted that It could bring about the disintegration of the government, depending on whether [Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor] Lieberman decides to do.
Olmert denied earlier this month that Jerusalem is on the negotiating table but also stated that he does not need the Knessets approval to reach a joint declaration with the PA, including one that might include an agreement to hand over parts of Jerusalem to the PA. He also has refused to specifically define Jerusalems city limits, giving rise to speculation that he will in due course redefine them so as to enable concessions without technically violating his pledge ( Israel National News, October 19).
A major new Israeli poll by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research and the Evens Program in Mediation and Conflict Resolution of Tel Aviv University (October 8-10) has also shown that a clear majority of Jewish Israelis 59% to 33% oppose, even in return for a peace agreement, Israel handing over to the PA various Arab neighborhoods in the eastern half of Jerusalem.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, It is quite clear from these developments within the Knesset that the Olmert government lacks a majority from the Knesset and the Israeli public to make concessions on Jerusalem. Repeated opinion polls, including the recent one cited above, leave no doubt as to the clear rejection of this course on the part of the Israeli public and, within the Knesset, even a considerable number of Kadima MKs and MKs belonging to coalition parties clearly reject this approach. It is also an approach disliked by a majority of Americans, who were shown in a March 2007 opinion poll to oppose by a margin of 5-to-1 (60% – 11%) further Israeli land concessions to the PA.
Under these circumstances, the Olmert government lacks majority support to offer such concessions to the PA. We urge Prime Minister Olmert, who has already stated that Jerusalem is not on the negotiating table, to remove any doubt or ambiguity on this issue by clarifying specifically the borders of Jerusalem so the public is left in no doubt that the city will indeed remain intact under what he has termed the eternal, united and internationally recognized capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
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