Barak on East Jerusalem – "ours", "theirs", and a "special regime" in and around the Old City

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?]

Goldstone Mission: Open call for submissions

The United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, led by Justice Richard Goldstone of South Africa, has issued a call to “all interested persons and organizations to submit relevant information and documentation that will assist in the implementation of the Mission’s mandate”.

The Goldstone mission, an International Independent Fact Finding Mission established by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, is mandated “to investigate all violations of International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009 whether before, during, or after”.

The Mission said that “events since June 2008 are particularly relevant” to the “armed conflict that took place between 27 December 2008 and 19 January 2009” — the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead.

Israel and Hamas began a cease-fire in June 2008 that was variously called either “open-ended”, or for six months, renewable. At the time, Israeli officials, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak, said that they were simultaneously preparing for a big operation in Gaza, if necessary — apparently seeking to assuage Israeli concern that such a cease-fire would only be used by Hamas to build up its military potential

The Mission said that “Due to time constraints the Mission would be grateful to receive submissions in English, but will also accept submissions in Arabic or Hebrew.” — presented as concisely as possible.

It said that “Unless otherwise indicated by the author, the Mission will assume that submissions can be made public. Please indicate whether you wish parts or whole submissions to be treated as confidential”.

The information can be submitted by email addressed to, or by postal mail to the Secretariat of the Fact-Finding Mission c/o OHCHR, G. Motta 48, Geneva 1202, Switzerland.

Earlier, the Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict advised that “anyone wishing to make contact with the Mission during its visit to Gaza may contact the Mission by telephone at: (+970) 0597 444 158 or (+970) 0597 444 159.

The deadline for submission is 30 June 2009.

Our earlier post on the Goldstone Mission’s work in Gaza can be read here

Israeli Defense Minister Barak refuses to budge on checkpoints

Israel’s Defense Minister (and former Prime Minister) Ehud Barak said on Monday and Tuesday (after the recent visit of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney that he would not remove the West Bank checkpoints and roadblocks that all the members of the Quartet have called on Israel to remove.

Reuters reported that “Israel is under increasing U.S. pressure to take steps to ease restrictions on Palestinian travel and trade. But Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Monday that while Israel would try to ease some travel restrictions within the West Bank, it was not ready to commit to removing checkpoints”. This Reuters report is posted here .

The Associated Press reported that Barak indicated “The government would ‘look into’ certain changes to in a limited test area, he said, but offered no details. ‘It’s still too early to give an answer’, Barak said. Israeli officials have said that without the Israeli military presence, the West Bank could fall to the Islamic militants of Hamas, just as the Gaza Strip did last June”. The AP report is posted here .