Israel leadership candidates sound off on Jerusalem

Wednesday, August 06, 2008 |  Ryan Jones

The frontrunners to take over for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert when his Kadima Party holds its primary election next month made the fate of Jerusalem a core issue of their respective platforms during campaign speeches on Tuesday.

Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz officially declared his candidacy within view of Jerusalem's Old City Walls, and told reporters that if elected he will reject any territorial concessions in the city in peace talks with the Palestinians.

"In this place, before the walls of the Old City...I promise to maintain a united Jerusalem as Israel's eternal capital," declared Mofaz.

That prompted a furious response from senior Palestinian Authority officials, who told Ha'aretz that a Mofaz victory in the mid-September primary would be disastrous for the land-for-peace process.

By contrast, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who currently heads Olmert's peace negotiating team, champions the view that Israel has no choice but to surrender the Arab-dominated eastern half of Jerusalem in a final status agreement with the Palestinians.

In an interview with a Russian-language radio station, Livni tried to make her position a little more palatable to right-leaning voters by stating that Israel should not fully relinquish control over the Temple Mount.

The issue of the Temple Mount aside, the Palestinian officials cited by Ha'aretz said that Livni is far and away the preferred candidate in Ramallah, and that efforts to birth a Palestinian Arab state in the coming months rest on her victory.

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