Ehud Barak, Israel’s current Defense Minister Ehud Barak [who, as such, rules the West Bank, while Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu is in charge of Israel within the “Green Line”] gave an interview to Haaretz from his office at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv, published today, in which the editors say he has made “unequivocal, remarkable statements”.
Barak is now in Washington with Netanyahu and other members of the Israeli delegation that will be participating in today’s dinner and tomorrow’s meeting with Palestinian officials at U.S. invitation to relaunch direct Israeli-Palestinian talks.
Here is an excerpt of Barak’s remarks to Haaretz, which were breathtakingly specific regarding East Jerusalem (which did not come under Israeli control at the time of Israel’s creation in May 1948 — but were captured by Israeli forces during the June 1967 war):
Q: What is the solution in Jerusalem [that you believe can be agreed upon by the conclusion of the talks]?
A: “West Jerusalem and 12 Jewish neighborhoods that are home to 200,000 residents will be ours. The Arab neighborhoods in which close to a quarter million Palestinians live will be theirs. There will be a special regime in place along with agreed upon arrangements in the Old City, the Mount of Olives and the City of David.”
These remarks are published today in Haaretz here.
Until now, most states in the world have not formally recognized Israel’s position [fluid as of this writing] on East Jerusalem.
What Barak called “Jewish neighborhoods” in East Jerusalem, in this interview in Haaretz, are Israeli settlements in occupied territory to most of the rest of the world.
The position of Palestinian negotiators concerning East Jerusalem [al-Quds] — including all of the Old City, the Mount of Olives, and the “City of David” [Palestinian Silwan], which was all held entirely by Jordanian troops from 15 May 1948 until June 1967 — is that it is part of the West Bank, and they have announced that East Jerusalem will be the capital of the future Palestinian state.
About a month after the June 1967 war, Israel extended its law and administration over East Jerusalem [an act which is not exactly annexation, but which is its effective equivalent]. Then, Israel unilaterally withdrew the boundaries, and incorporated over 60 square kilometers of West Bank villages in a crescent running from north to south along the eastern side of the Old City, and called the whole lot the “Greater Jerusalem Municipality”. In 1980, Israel adopted a Basic Law proclaiming “Jerusalem” as its united and eternal capital. This, also, has not been formally recognized by most of the states of the world.
In the current decade, after the start of the Second Palestinian Intifada, Israel began building a Wall (“security barrier”) which unilaterally redesigns what is inside the “Greater Jerusalem Municipality” [on the Israeli side of The Wall] , and what is now outside, or on the West Bank side — though Israel has not, yet, given administrative effect to this de facto redivision, designed and carried out by the Israeli military, of what it evidently considers to be “Jerusalem”.
In other words, Barak is suggesting that what’s “ours” [Israeli] is “ours”, and that the most sensitive and sacred part of what’s “theirs” [Palestinian] will also become “ours” [Israel].
What he is proposing is an agreement that will be given international acceptance and recognition for something completely new.
Is there any way the Palestinians can agree?
Will Egypt and Jordan agree? [Will Egypt and Jordan and maybe also the Quartet agree to be part of the “special regime” — at least, concerning the non-Jewish holy sites in the Old City of East Jerusalem?]