Gil Hoffman and Hilary Leila Krieger , THE JERUSALEM POST Oct. 18, 2007
A majority of Knesset members signed a petition this week calling for Jerusalem to remain undivided, in a move that could tie Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in his negotiations with Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas ahead of the Annapolis summit.
The petition drive, initiated by Likud MK Yisrael Katz, attracted support from some 30 coalition MKs, including ministers Ya’acov Edri and Ze’ev Boim of Kadima and the two Pensioners Party ministers. Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz said he would add his signature soon.
Thirteen Kadima MKs signed, including Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Tzahi Hanegbi. Every Pensioners MK signed. The only Israel Beiteinu MKs who signed were David Rotem and Estherina Tartman and the only Labor MK who signed was MK Yoram Marciano.
Katz said the petition drive was intended to send a message to Olmert that he has no mandate to negotiate Jerusalem’s future. In a further push to keep Jerusalem on the agenda, the Likud faction will tour the walls of the Old City Tuesday and Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu will brief the foreign press at a strategic site overlooking
“Unfortunately the man who was mayor of Jerusalem is talking about dividing the city in order to take the public’s attention away from the problems he is facing like the Winograd committee,” Likud MK Reuven Rivlin said. “It is possible that Olmert could divide Jerusalem and we have to face that reality, but it’s illegitimate, especially because he’s putting Jerusalem on the agenda to distract from his other problems.”
Kadima MK Yoel Hason, the vice chairman of the coalition, said the opposition would not get away with misguiding the public into thinking that Olmert intends to divide Jerusalem. Hason said Olmert’s decision to appoint Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and not Vice Premeir Haim Ramon to head Israel’s negotiating team was a sign that Olmert would not divide the city.
“The fact that there’s a diplomatic process doesn’t mean Jerusalem will be divided,”
Jerusalem city council opposition leader Nir Barkat has also started a campaign to save Jerusalem. The campaign is asking the public to sign a petition supporting keeping Jerusalem united on the website jer.org.il.
Thousands of stickers will be distributed with the slogan “Jerusalem should be strengthened, not divided.” The campaign’s goals are to push Olmert to remove Jerusalem from the agenda in Annapolis and to push the government and the Jewish world to invest in the city’s future.
“There seems to be a feeling among our leaders that they can cut their losses and give up on keeping a united Jerusalem with a Jewish majority,” Barkat said. “This feeling of desperation has to be replaced immediately and we intend to help make that happen.”
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America has also expressed its opposition to any plans to divide Jerusalem and wrote to Olmert to urge him not to do the “unthinkable” in terms of ceding parts of Jerusalem.
In a response the group received earlier this week, Olmert’s Diaspora affairs advisor Rachel Risby-Raz wrote that “the issue of Jerusalem is
currently not under negotiation with the Palestinians,” and that in any future settlement Olmert would “strengthen the Jewish character of
Jerusalem” and insure that Jerusalem remained “the eternal, united and internationally recognized capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.”
OU President Stephen Savitsky welcomed the response, but said Olmert still needed to be more explicit regarding his intentions for the holy city.