The Jerusalem Post
September 24, 2010 - 12:00am

Israel should agree to an international trusteeship in Jerusalem’s Holy Basin, should allow non-Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem to serve as the capital of a Palestinian state, and should offer to solve the Palestinian refugee problem within the framework of the Arab peace initiative, former prime minister Ehud Olmert urges in an op-ed article in today’s Jerusalem Post.

“If [Israel] takes a clear stance on these issues and presents them as its position for the negotiations,” Olmert writes, it would “transform the atmosphere” surrounding the direct talks with the Palestinian Authority.

A source close to Olmert told the Post that the positions he sets out in the article reflect the terms he offered to PA President Mahmoud Abbas at the end of their two years of negotiations – “terms which Abbas now regrets not responding to,” the source said.

The source confirmed that Olmert’s reference to an international trusteeship in the Holy Basin, which “will not be a sovereign part of either the State of Israel or the state of Palestine,” would involve Israel relinquishing sovereignty at the Western Wall and the Temple Mount. “There would be complete and unlimited access for all believers – of course, for Jews – to these sites. Basically,” the source said, “this would represent a maintenance of the status quo, but under international trusteeship.

“This was part of his proposal for a permanent accord with the Palestinians,” the source said. “The trusteeship proposed to Abbas constituted Israel, the Palestinian state, the US, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.”

The source added that the terms Olmert sets out are known to be acceptable to the United States and the Europeans.

In his article, Olmert laments the fact that the settlement freeze, due to expire on Sunday, has become a central issue threatening the talks. It should not be allowed to derail them, he writes. Instead, “Israel can and must re-focus discussion on the core issues of dispute between us and the Palestinians.”

He cites five such core issues, including the question of borders, where he asks whether the Israeli withdrawal will include parts of Jerusalem. On the issue of the status of the non-Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem, he asks whether those neighborhoods, “including Sheikh Jarrah,” will “ultimately be the Palestinian capital.”

Regarding the status of the Holy Basin, Olmert asks whether the sides will be “prepared to decide that the Holy Basin will be overseen by an international trusteeship and will not be a sovereign part of either the State of Israel or the state of Palestine.”

On the refugee problem, he writes: “Will the Palestinian leadership and that of the government of Israel agree that the framework for discussion of this sensitive issue is the Arab peace initiative, which is in any case part of the road map that is accepted by both sides?” And finally, he asks whether the Palestinians will be “prepared to respect Israel’s security needs” according to “eight points that were drafted in the past by the Israeli government with the agreement of the American administration – all this based on the assumption that there will be agreement on borders based on the 1967 lines.”

He urges Israel to takes a clear stance on these issues and to “present them as its position for the negotiations.”


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