ZOA Critical Of Olmert-Livni Secret Negotiations On Jerusalem
February 11, 2008

Olmert violates Kadima platform

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has criticized the Israeli government of Ehud Olmert for conducting negotiations on Jerusalem and especially for doing so in secret. The news of the secret negotiations leaked from the Palestinian Authority (PA), where a senior official disclosed that a PA negotiating team headed by former PA prime minister Ahmed Qurei has been holding undisclosed negotiations with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and other government officials in the past few weeks. Livni has confirmed the claim. The Palestinian official said that, “Israel is prepared to withdraw from almost all the Arab neighborhoods and villages in Jerusalem. Israel is prepared to re-divide Jerusalem and this is a positive development.”

The news led Israeli MK Zevulun Orlev (National Union National Religious Party) to say that “The cat is out of the bag … The fact that [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert’s government is not telling the truth over the negotiations with the Palestinians has been revealed. [The Olmert government’s coalition partner] Shas will no longer be able to say they didn’t know … I hope Shas keeps its promise and leaves the government that is dividing Jerusalem.”

Shas Trade and Labor Minister and Chairman Eli Yishai told the Jerusalem Post today “We will check your story and if it is true, Shas will leave the government.” He added that the party would also leave if the government continued to negotiate while rockets were being fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, Shas reiterated that it “would not stay in a government that divides” the Jewish capital.

Opposition Leader and Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu said in a statement, “Following the [government’s] security failures and in light of what I’ve read on Jerusalem being discussed in negotiations, I call on our friends in Shas: You share our opinions, our concern for Jerusalem, our concern for security — I call on you to do the right thing. And the right thing is to stop these dangerous moves and quit the government”

Jerusalem Municipality opposition leader Nir Barkat called on Livni to reveal any agreements reached during negotiations with the Palestinians following a report on Sunday in the Jerusalem Post which revealed that secret Israeli-PA talks have resulted in progress over the issue of Jerusalem. “I demand that the foreign minister, who heads the negotiations with the Palestinians, publicly disclose all secretive and other agreements that the state of Israel has reached with the Palestinians … any such agreement achieved on behalf of an Israeli official would constitute an absolute deviation to Kadima’s basic principles, a violation to the basic law of Jerusalem, betrays the trust of the voter and undermines the sovereign basis of the Israel’s Knesset” (Gil Hoffman, Talia Dekel and Khaled Abu Toameh, ‘Politicians infuriated over secret talks on Jlem’s fate,’ Jerusalem Post, February 10, 2008).

The negotiations being conducted on Jerusalem are contrary to the Kadima Platform (2006) which explicitly states that “Jerusalem and large settlement blocks in the West Bank will be kept under Israeli control.”

  • Israeli public opposes re-dividing Jerusalem: An October 2007 Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research and the Evens Program in Mediation and Conflict Resolution of Tel Aviv University poll has shown that a clear majority of Jewish Israelis — 59 percent to 33 percent — oppose, even in return for a peace agreement, Israel handing over to the PA various Arab neighborhoods in the eastern half of Jerusalem.

  • American Jews oppose re-dividing Jerusalem: The 2007 American Jewish Committee poll showed that 55 percent of American Jews don’t believe that current negotiations can lead to peace, only 36 percent are hopeful. It showed 58 percent of American Jews reject Israeli concessions on Jerusalem, even in context of permanent peace; only 36 percent support the idea.

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “We are aghast that the Olmert government has confirmed reports that it is secretly negotiating major concessions to the PA over Jerusalem, the subject on which an overwhelming majority of Israelis, American Jews and Americans in general agree should not be re-divided.

“Not only are these negotiations a violation of the 2006 Kadima Party platform as well as Prime Minister Olmert’s promise to the Shas Party that such talks are not taking place, but the very idea of engaging by stealth in negotiations and discussing concessions unacceptable to the vast majority of the Israeli public is anti-democratic. It would seem that the Olmert government has decided to proceed with major concessions to the PA, even on Jerusalem, irrespective of the advisability of such concessions and the clear lack of Israeli public support for such important and far-reaching measures.

“At a time when Israel should be bringing maximum pressure to bear on Abbas’ PA to finally meet its signed commitments under the Oslo agreements and the 2003 Roadmap peace plan to arrest terrorists, close the bomb factories and end the incitement to hatred and murder that permeates the PA-controlled media, mosques schools and youth camps, the Olmert government, first by stealth and then openly upon discovery, promotes major, irreversible concessions to the PA on Jerusalem. Yet it is clear that the PA under Abbas has done next to nothing to merit any sort of concessions, let alone being handed on a platter the heart of Judaism even before negotiations have taken place.

“The Olmert government is simply flying from reality by adopting a policy of major concessions on Jerusalem to the PA. Such concessions are wrong in themselves because they tear out the Jewish people from the heart of Judaism, and would introduce PA forces into the Old City, re-dividing the city. Now that Israel is seen to be offering major concessions to Abbas, other countries, which might have worked to pressure Abbas to implement the PAs commitments, will simply feel free to hand over more funds and offer more diplomatic support to what is still in reality a terrorist-sponsoring regime committed to Israel’s eventual elimination.

“In these circumstances, we urge the Olmert government to repudiate the course of pursuing negotiations with Abbas PA and to state publicly and clearly that these proposed concessions are not the policy of the Israeli government. It should also affirm that no concessions of any kind will even be considered until and unless the PA fulfills its 14 year old commitments under Oslo and the Roadmap, which, incidentally, was the position of Kadima founder and former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Part of the necessary changes that must occur in the PA is the abrogating of the Fatah Constitution, with its denunciation of Israel as racist, its call for Israel’s elimination and the use of terrorism as an indispensable part of the strategy towards achieving that goal.”

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