Israeli Vice Prime Minister Haim Ramon on Tuesday suggested that as part of a peace offer to be made at an upcoming US-hosted summit Israel should offer to surrender the Arab-dominated neighborhoods of Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority.
Ramon made the suggestion in a letter to leading Jerusalem City Councilman Nir Barkat, a fierce opponent of dividing the Israeli capital. Ramon's letter was a response to a written demand by Barkat that the minister explain his earlier suggestions that Israel could and should let the Palestinians establish their future capital in Judaism's holiest city.
Ramon's letter drew furious responses from politicians across the political spectrum, including members of his and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's own Kadima Party. One party member told Israel Radio that the proposal is better suited to the farthest left-wing fringe factions in Israeli politics, though some have suggested that Kadima is in fact further to the left than it would like to admit.
Analysts see Ramon's recommendations as a trial balloon for future government policy. Ramon was recently made Olmert's chief negotiator in talks with the Palestinians. The two men are believed to be formulating a comprehensive peace proposal of which the surrender of eastern Jerusalem is just a part ahead of the November summit in the US.