Peace Deal Snubs East Jerusalem, Refugees

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert are discussing a US proposal to sign a five-year temporary deal by the year-end that snubs occupied East Jerusalem and refugees, a Palestinian source told Israel’s Yediot Aharonot on Thursday, April 10.

The source said the Bush administration has submitted a proposal to the Palestinian Authority and Israel to delay negotiations on East Jerusalem by five years.

The proposal, discussed by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and top Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qureia, also stipulates a postponement of the refugees issue by a few years.

During a much-touted US-hosted peace conference in Annapolis in November, Israel and the Palestinian Authority vowed to reach a peace deal by 2008.

But since then, peace talks have stalled over Israel’s refusal to put the issues of East Jerusalem and refugees on the agenda.

East Jerusalem (Al-Quds in Arabic) is home to Al-Haram Al-Sharif, which includes Islam’s third holiest shrine, Al-Aqsa Mosque, and represents the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Israel captured the city in the six-day 1967 war before annexing the holy city and declaring it part of its eternal undivided capital, a claim not recognized by the UN or the world community.

Palestinians insist the city will be the capital of their future independent state.

Palestinians also insist on the return of almost 4.5 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants to their homes from which they were forced out when Israel was created.

Israeli Interest

The source said delaying the issues of East Jerusalem and refugees will mainly serve Israel’s interest.

He argued it would only help Abbas present the Palestinian public with a treaty and restore faith in negotiations.

Under the five-year deal, the Palestinian Authority will be granted some municipal sovereignty in Ramallah, said the source.

The Authority will also be allowed to provide services to the Palestinians in the city.

The source expects Abbas to accept the proposal if he receives Israeli assurances for significant withdrawals from the occupied West Bank and a just solution for the issues of water and detainees in Israeli jails.

When the two sides sign the deal, the Palestinian Authority will open Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem, according to the source.

But he added that Palestinian officials would refrain from holding diplomatic meetings in the Arab city so as not to embarrass Israel.
( and agencies)

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