Ramon defends Jerusalem proposal

Haim Ramon defended his proposal to cede east Jerusalem to the Palestinians in a future peace deal.

Ramon, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s top deputy, in interviews with Israel’s two main radio stations Monday argued in favor of a partition of Jerusalem.

“It would be good for the State of Israel that 170,000 Palestinians do not compromise the capital of Israel as the capital of the Jewish people,” he told Israel Radio.

Under Ramon’s proposal, Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem would be ceded to the future Palestine while Israel receives international endorsement for its hold on west Jerusalem and several outlying neighborhoods that cut into the West Bank.

Ramon was hazy about the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, which the Palestinians want to control under any accord.

“I don’t think we need to deal with this now,” Ramon said, adding only that he would favor a “special arrangement” for the site.

Many Israelis believe that Ramon has been testing the public on diplomatic initiatives that Olmert plans to unveil at next month’s U.S.-sponsored conference on Palestinian statehood. Olmert has avoided public comment on Ramon’s proposals.

But Olmert’s office did issue a denial of a report in the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi that Israel had decided to cede control of the Temple Mount and east Jerusalem to Jordan, which ruled the West Bank before the 1967 war.

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