Israeli officials are furious that a U.S. consul said Israel had agreed to negotiate with the Palestinians over Jerusalem.
The remarks by U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem Jacob Walles were reported in a Palestinian newspaper, Al Ayyam.
The report set off a furor among Kadima leaders, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told a Kadima Party meeting on Thursday that his government was sticking by its position that Jerusalem should be left until the end of the talks, The Jerusalem Post reported.
Israel also officially conveyed its displeasure over Walles’ comments to Washington, the Post said.
Walles’ revelation put Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who heads Israel’s negotiations with the Palestinians and who is a candidate to succeed Olmert in next week’s Kadima primary, in a difficult spot. Livni denied that Walles’ comments were true.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack also issued a clarification on the issue.
“While the discussions between the parties are confidential, we can state that the parties have not in any way prejudiced long-held views on borders,” McCormack said in a statement. “A senior U.S. official who participated in the discussions denies that the Israeli side, led by chief negotiator Foreign Minister Livni, has been willing to negotiate concerning Jerusalem. The secretary participated in the negotiations in a way that respected the Israeli position.”