Israeli paper says Palestinian negotiators agreed to swap Sheikh Jarrah [and put it under Israeli sovereignty]

The idea of “land swaps” arose in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations since the Camp David talks in late July 2000.

The Geneva Initiative, signed in Geneva in December 2003 between representatives of Israeli and Palestinian “civil society” [who included or who were in close touch with the former Camp David negotiators] said these proposed “land swaps” should be carried out on a 1:1 basis [of equal size, and also of equal quality].

In an article by correspondent Barak Ravid published today, Haaretz included the following new information as background [it’s left to the final paragraph]:

    “The Palestinians also showed readiness to make certain compromises in Jerusalem, during both the Camp David and the Annapolis talks. The Palestinians were ready to leave under Israeli sovereignty most Jewish neighborhoods founded in East Jerusalem after 1967, with the exception of Har Homa. Also, the Palestinians even expressed agreement to the plan for international administration over holy sites, and offered to leave the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood under Israeli sovereignty in a territorial swap“. This is published here.

Palestinian negotiators are supposed to have agreed that Sheikh Jarrah will be put under Israeli sovereignty? This is the first report about any such Palestinian agreement.

    Israel extended its law and administration to Jerusalem in June 1967, a few weeks after the Six Day / June war — a move tantamount to [but not quite] annexation. This move was declared null and void, and has not been recognized, by almost all UN Member States. At that time, boundaries of a new “Greater Jerusalem” were drawn up by the Jerusalem Municipality, including Sheikh Jarrah and a larger crescent of land extending in an arc from Ramallah in the north to almost Bethlehem in the South. Since then, Israel considers this as Jerusalem, more or less — although a large area of “Greater Jerusalem” was West Bank land before the June 1967 war and the subsequent Israeli military occupation. In 1980, the Israeli Knesset adopted a Basic Law declaring Jerusalem as its eternal + undivided capital [and annexing the Golan Heights].

There have been previous reports that Palestinian negotiators had indicated that French Hill, Ramot, and Pisgat Zeev to the north of the Old City [as well as Neve Yaakov, which was Jewish property under the Ottoman and British Mandate periods] could be left as is. It was not clear about Gilo to the south, near Bethlehem. But the Palestinian negotiators were adamant about the return of Har Homa [which Palestinians call Jabel Abu Ghneim], and they had also not given in on the very large settlement of Maale Adumim to the east, between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.

But never Sheikh Jarrah…

The main point of this Barak Ravid article is the report in the lede [top] paragraphs, that the photogenic TV personality-turning-politician Yair Lapid believes the Palestinians will cave on Jerusalem as they supposedly have on the right of return [as suggested in Mahmoud Abbas’ recent interview with Israeli Channel Two TV, Lapid’s {former?} employer].

The Ravid article reports that Lapid, “speaking Tuesday before a closed forum of the Council for Peace and Security, an organization of former high-ranking security officials that strives to advance the peace process and the founding of a Palestinian state”, said — as he had in the northern West Bank settlement of Ariel earlier — that he is against “dividing” Jerusalem and that he believes it is not even necessary.

The article said:
“Lapid presented a rather optimistic view of Palestinian flexibility regarding the issue of Jerusalem. In his opinion, Israel can reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians without having to divide Jerusalem or transfer sovereignty over Arab neighborhoods. ‘Why did Abu Mazen suddenly say he’s giving up the right of return?’ asked Lapid, relating to comments made last week by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in an interview on Channel 2. During the interview, Abbas said he is not seeking to return to his home in Safed, from which his family fled in 1948, but at no point did he say that he renounces the right of return. ‘Abu Mazen gave up the right of return because the Palestinians realized that there is a definite consensus among the Israeli public on this issue, so they’re moving on to the next topic’, added Lapid. ‘The same thing needs to happen with regard to Jerusalem. We cannot blink on this issue. When it comes to Jerusalem, there are no compromises. If the Palestinians realize they won’t have a state unless they give up on Jerusalem, they’ll back down from that demand as well’.”

A little further up in the article, there is this paragraph, which is the standard public negotiating position:

    “Over the past 20 years, since the beginning of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, the future of Jerusalem has been considered one of the central issues on the agenda. The Palestinians have demanded that Israel withdraw from East Jerusalem, as determined by the 1967 borders and including the Temple Mount [n.b. – Palestinians refer to the mosque esplanade the Haram ash-Sharif], so they can establish their capital there”.

The idea that Israel and Israelis must remain “firm” is a slightly-softened way of saying that they must remain tough, and is not far removed from saying that the Palestinians only understand “force”. It sounds like the sort of coaching a team would get in a locker room. This is not the way negotiations are supposed to work…

This reported attitude expressed by Lapid to the Council on Peace and Security also perpetuates the idea [very popular among Israelis] that Palestinians say one thing but mean another. In short, they lie… This impression was very uncomfortably reinforced by the Al-Jazeera five-day series of special reports aired in January 2011, entitled “Palestine Papers”, which Palestinians said was nothing new but which nevertheless caused a lot of Palestinian internal damage.

Here is a bit more of the recent history of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations offered in this Haaretz piece:

    “During the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority at Camp David in July 2000 and later during the Taba summit in January 2001, then prime minister Ehud Barak agreed to a territorial compromise in Jerusalem, including in the Holy Basin, referring to the Old City and the Temple Mount. Dividing Jerusalem was also one of the ‘ideas’ presented by then U.S. President Bill Clinton to Barak and Yasser Arafat in December 2000. Barak accepted Clinton’s ideas, although he did express reservations. The parties met again during the Annapolis Conference in November 2007. During the ensuing negotiations between former prime minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas in 2008, the former agreed to transfer Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem over to Palestinian sovereignty. Olmert also agreed to transfer administration of Jerusalem’s holy places to an international commission, composed of representatives from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, the United States and Israel”.

“Dividing” Jerusalem is how Israelis most often speak of these proposals — though it was never explain how the “divide” would function [with barbed wire, an extenion of the Wall, military checkpoints?]. But, Palestinians most often think of these proposals as meaning “sharing” Jerusalem, which would become a space that citizens and residents of the two states could move freely within.

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