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Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised Orthodox Jewish leaders that Jerusalem was not up for discussion in forthcoming negotiations with the Palestinians. In response to a letter from the Orthodox Union insisting that Olmert not cede portions of Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority, Rachael Risby-Raz, Olmert’s diaspora affairs adviser, said the prime minister would keep the city united.

The Orthodox Union wrote to Olmert following a speech Monday in which he appeared to suggest he was willing to consider ceding parts of the city to the Palestinians. “The issue of Jerusalem is currently not under negotiations with the Palestinians,” Risby-Raz wrote. “We assure you, however, that in any future settlement, the prime minister will strengthen the Jewish character of Jerusalem, enhance its Jewish majority, and keep Jerusalem as the eternal, united and internationally recognized capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.” Despite the reassurance, the O.U. still found Olmert’s commitment unsatisfactory, noting that in light of his comments “and in light of the unparalleled significance to all Jews of the fate of the holy city, we must ask Prime Minister Olmert to be more explicit about his intentions and commitment to keep Jerusalem as the ‛eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish People,'” a statement from President Stephen Savitsky said. On Monday, Olmert questioned the inclusion of certain Arab areas within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem — a remark the Israeli media construed as signaling his willingness to part with certain parts of the city.

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