Bitterlemons (Interview)
October 29, 2007 - 7:10pm

bitterlemons: We've heard recently Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert talk about the outlying neighborhoods of Jerusalem and that Israel might be willing to "divide" Jerusalem. What do you make of this?

Husseini: First of all, we've been hearing such ideas for a while, but we also see the objections from many others in Israel, so we can't really trust these statements.

But there is something else very important to make clear. What is mentioned in these statements is not sufficient for the Palestinian side. The statements concern certain areas that are not part of the core of Jerusalem. We know Jerusalem as the Old City and the surrounding areas. In 1948, Jerusalem was 2.2 square kilometers, 1.9 of which were taken up by the Old City.

In 1967, the area of Jerusalem had expanded to 6.5 square kilometers, as a result of the natural growth of the city in those 19 intervening years. Now, after 40 years of occupation, it has reached 9 square kilometers, including the far-flung areas that are now mentioned as those Israel is willing to give back to the Palestinians.

Everything in Jerusalem is important. When we speak about Jerusalem on the political level, the core is the Old City and the holy places. If Jerusalem does not include these areas, we are not speaking about Jerusalem but just land, like any other in the West Bank.

We do not accept these statements because they mean Israel wants to annex East Jerusalem to the western side, and these statements are just a way of playing with us. They say they want to divide the city, but this is not the way. The city was divided in 1967 and there was a main border that was very clear to everyone. There was east and west, and these should become two capitals, one for the Israelis and one for the Palestinians.

bitterlemons: We hear a lot about the Taba talks and the Clinton plan and the idea that there should be some kind of division based on Jewish and Arab neighborhoods. Does this make sense?

Husseini: In the many recent discussions and meetings we've had, the Israelis have wanted to impose their understanding for every part of the city and in the Palestinian territories in general. We are not committed to any of this. We are committed to UN Security Council resolutions. It is very clear to everyone that we are speaking about 22 percent of Palestine and of Jerusalem as part of the occupied Palestinian territories. We cannot speak of any less than this.

bitterlemons: What about practicalities? Let's talk of the 1967 borders. Clearly there has to be some kind of open city arrangement. It is hard to imagine a hard border there.

Husseini: We are not talking about a divided Jerusalem in this way. Israel likes this idea of high walls. We do not agree to this vision. We want a city with two sovereignties, open to each other and with full recognition between the two sides. There will certainly be technical issues that will need practical resolution, but nothing to do with the fundamental issues of land sovereignty.

The holy places are a closed file. This is not negotiable. The Aqsa Mosque is not something that can be compromised on, nor is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This is a closed file. The Old City is the heart of East Jerusalem, and everything else is the natural extension of this city.


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