Israelis Dismiss out of Hand Demands to Discuss Jerusalem

Israeli leaders said here this week that Palestinian demands to discuss the status of Jerusalem in the Washington peace negotiations were “out of the question.”

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres declared Thursday that Israeli sovereignty over a united Jerusalem was not subject to negotiation.

Efforts to come up with a joint Israeli-Palestinian declaration of principles for the peace talks were stymied in Washington this week, when Palestinians insisted on addressing the issue of Jerusalem in the statement.

Similar comments were made by Deputy Defense Minister Motta Gur.

“It is absolutely out of the question,” said Gur in a radio interview.

Gur, who served as the commander of the Israeli army division which captured the Old City of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War, said that anyone raising the issue now would in effect cause the collapse of the peace negotiations.

“Jerusalem is sacred and very important to the Jewish people,” he said, “although I realize that it is also important for other religions.”

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, though, gave a more positive comment on the talks, playing down the “squeaks heard every now and then from that party or other in the negotiations.”

Rabin said most of the parties to the talks have passed the point of no return in the negotiations.

Rabin also ridiculed the slogan of the hardliners and Likud opposition that he had no popular mandate from the people to make territorial concessions.

Rabin said he doubted that Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu had a mandate to head the opposition, since Netanyahu did not lead the Likud in the last election campaign.

In reaction, Netanyahu retorted that Rabin was well aware of the fact that he did not receive a mandate from the electorate for a policy of withdrawal and that Rabin knew his Knesset majority relied on “Knesset members who support the Palestine Liberation Organization,” referring to the Arab Knesset members.

Netanyahu, who is currently on a fundraising visit in the United States, was quoted here by his spokesman.

Meanwhile, Likud figures such as Binyamin Begin and Eliahu Ben-Elissar said that the mention of Jerusalem in Washington at this round of talks was proof that the Likud was justified in criticizing the Labor-led government’s handling of the negotiations with the Palestinians.

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