Vice Premier Haim Ramon outlined his official political agenda on Tuesday, acknowledging that he believes Israel should cede control of the Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem to the Palestinians and
establish joint sovereignty over the city's holy sites.
Ramon went on record with his personal viewpoint in a letter to Nir Barkat, a member of Jerusalem's municipal council on behalf of Kadima.
"The Jewish neighborhoods will be recognized as Israeli and under Israeli sovereignty. Accordingly, the Arab neighborhoods (like Shoafat) will be recognized as Palestinian. Passages between the Israeli neighborhoods will be open and secure – accordingly the same will be true for the Palestinian neighborhoods," writes Ramon.
"There will be special sovereignty over the holy sites, taking into account Israel's unique interests in overseeing them. Within this framework the Western Wall, the Jewish Quarter and other holy sites in the Jerusalem vicinity will remain under Israeli rule forever."
Knesset members and cabinet ministers from Kadima recently voiced their objections to the divisive concessions proposed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in his talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Those opposing Olmert say they are concerned that he would propose withdrawing from the West Bank and handing over part of Jerusalem to the PA ahead of the upcoming peace summit in Washington.
'A danger to Jerusalem's future'
A fierce opponent of dividing Jerusalem, Barkat demanded that Ramon – as Olmert's designated man for negotiations with the PA - clarify his position.
"Recent reports have said that in your talks with the Palestinian prime minister you are working to divide Jerusalem between Israel and a future Palestinian state. Such a move would compromise Israel's sovereignty over the holy sites and the Old City as well as end in the transfer of Jerusalem neighborhoods to the Palestinians," wrote Barkat in his demand to Ramon.
"I remind you that these positions go against Kadima's guiding principles, that stress the inclusion of the sites holy to the Jewish faith and which are important national symbols – first and foremost of these is a unified Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel. It is because of these principles that Kadima was given a mandate by the people of Israel.
"It is inconceivable that we would go along with actions that would endanger Jerusalem's security and Judaism's Holy of Holies."
In his response to Barkat Ramon wrote: "Kadima has raised the banner of a democratic and Jewish Israel with a solid Jewish majority. It is based on this belief that the prime minister is negotiating with President Abbas."
Ramon said he agreed with Barkat's sentiment of preserving Jerusalem's strength and added that expressing Israel's willingness to cede the Arab neighborhoods as part of an agreement with the Palestinian Authority would only contribute to that strength.