Concessions in Jerusalem and the West Bank are key to a peace agreement, said Israel’s top lawmakers.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his deputy, Haim Ramon, made their statements in separate addresses.
In a Yom Kippur eve interview on Friday, Ramon told Israel Radio in his bluntest terms to date that Israel must hand over Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem over to Palestinian sovereignty, going so far as to blast Israel’s 1968 annexation of the eastern part of the city. “This annexation threatens Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish people,” Ramon said. “It will bring about its transformation into a Palestinian capital with a Palestinian majority.”
Addressing a Kadima Party conference Thursday night after wrapping up meetings with Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. secretary of state, Olmert slammed Israelis who oppose concessions, saying they are seeking excuses “to avoid seizing opportunities and not look for real chances to break the ice between us and the Palestinians. I do not share this view.” Olmert called Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president a partner for peace.
Abbas, who will meet Monday in New York with President Bush during the launch of this year’s U.N. General Assembly, made it clear in his remarks with Rice that the conference would address final status issues. “We assured Dr. Rice of our genuine endeavor to reach a final status framework agreement in order to implement the final status issues including borders, Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, water and security,” Abbas said. “We believe that the time is ripe for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and for living side by side in security and tranquillity with the State of Israel.”