Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has told Israeli officials that they must partition Jerusalem if they really want peace.
"No Israeli government since 1967 has done even a smidgen of what was needed in order to unify the city in practical terms. That is a tragedy that is going to lead us, for want of another choice, to making inevitable political concessions," Olmert said on Sunday, The Associated Press reported.
Olmert made the unprecedented statement as Israel commemorated the 45th anniversary of the capture of East al-Quds.
Israel occupied and then annexed the West Bank and East Jerusalem (al-Quds) in the Six-Day War of 1967, but the move has never been recognized by the international community.
Speaking on Sunday evening from a site of that war, Olmert’s successor, Benjamin Netanyahu, said Jerusalem will not be partitioned.
"Israel without Jerusalem is like a body without a heart. And our heart will never be divided again," he declared.
Olmert responded to Netanyahu, saying the idea of a united Jerusalem is impractical. He pointed to a number of Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, saying they have not been incorporated into the rest of the city.
"We can’t unite them and connect them to the real fabric of life in Jerusalem, and except for grief, we haven’t gotten anything from them," Olmert stated.
Meanwhile, chief Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Israeli celebrations of the occupation of the city were "clear proof" that Tel Aviv is uninterested in establishing peace with the Palestinians. "Clearly, this behavior reflects the mentality of a colonizer, rather than a supposed peace partner."
Since the occupation of Arab East Jerusalem, Israel has been trying to alter the identity of the city through measures such as the construction of illegal housing units for Israelis, the eviction of Palestinians, and the demolition of their houses.