The government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is strongly hinting that it will offer half of Jerusalem to the Palestinians at an upcoming US-hosted peace summit, even though an overwhelming majority of Israelis remain firmly opposed to concessions in the holy city.
At Sunday's cabinet meeting Vice Prime Minister Haim Ramon insisted that it is "in Israel's interest that all the Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem receive international recognition, and that Arab neighborhoods like Wallaja and Shoafat are transferred to the Palestinians," and said the issue would play prominently at the peace conference scheduled to take place late next month in Annapolis, Maryland.
In his speech to the Knesset a day later, Olmert avoided mentioning the future status of Jerusalem specifically, but stated that "difficult decisions" would have to be made in Annapolis if Israel wanted to see an end to the conflict.
But the results of a public opinion poll published Tuesday by Israel's Yediot Ahronot newspaper revealed that Olmert does not have the support needed to divide the Israeli capital. Even in the framework of a final status agreement, 68 percent of Israelis said they would not support ceding the Arab-dominated areas of eastern Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority.
Asked under what conditions Olmert would be permitted to negotiate Jerusalem's future, a commanding 74 percent of respondents said the prime minister would first need the support of at least 80 percent of the Knesset or a majority in a national referendum.
Meanwhile, a leading Palestinian official on Monday told The Jerusalem Post that his government will accept nothing less than a full Israeli withdrawal from all of eastern Jerusalem, including the neighborhoods that are today Jewish-dominated.
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