Olmert: Israel can talk about Jerusalem

Ehud Olmert rejected any attempt by Diaspora Jews to dictate Israeli positions on Jerusalem.

The Israeli prime minister said his nation has the right to negotiate over the city, though he told reporters prior to the launch of U.S.-convened Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in Annapolis, Md., that Jerusalem was not on the table right now.

Asked about U.S. Jewish groups, including the Orthodox Union, that question whether Israel can bring up Jerusalem in talks, Olmert said, “Does any Jewish organization have a right to confer upon Israel what it negotiates or not? This question was decided a long time ago. The government of Israel has a sovereign right to negotiate anything on behalf of Israel.”

In response to Olmert’s comments, O.U. leaders issued a statement saying that “in vigorously advocating for the unity of Jerusalem in the weeks leading up to the Annapolis conference, the Orthodox Union has not sought to ‘confer upon’ or dictate to the Israeli government what it has the legal right to negotiate about with Palestinian or other Arab leaders.”

“We have, however, sought to express our heartfelt and strong view that all Jews around the globe have a stake in the holy city of Jerusalem, and that to cede portions of the city which has been the spiritual and political capital of the Jewish people for millennia is a step the government of Israel ought not take,” said the president of the O.U., Steve Savitsky, and its public policy director, Nathan Diament.

Savitsky and Diament noted that in an address to O.U. leaders last year, Olmert voiced approval for the notion that American Jews should feel free to express their disagreements over Israeli policy.

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