Jerusalem Forever

May 1, 2000
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Haim Ramon

As the Minister-in-Charge of Jerusalem Affairs and a person who has met, negotiated, and dealt with Palestinian leaders for more than a decade, I assume that a final agreement regarding the issue of Jerusalem is not feasible at the moment, neither now nor in the near future.

The government of Israel, like former governments, is committed to the unity of Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. The expression “Yerushalayim Hashlemah” is not a slogan in the eyes of the majority but a substantive essence.

The recent visit of Pope John Paul II (of which I had been in charge) has demonstrated to the world that even the Vatican recognizes de facto the unity of Jerusalem under the sovereignty of Israel.

One may bear in mind, on the other hand, that the Palestinians are very consistent in regard to their own position. That is to say: “Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian State.” Negotiating with the Palestinian Authority now on the issue of the final status of Jerusalem would guarantee to sabotage the peace process: the gaps between the parties are too big and the question of Jerusalem is too complicated. On the other hand, if we want to push the negotiation forward, we should detour the questions of Jerusalem until the end of this decade. This negotiation situation is very delicate and every statement or proposal offered by someone in a leadership position has the potential to destroy the fragile skeleton of the coming stage of negotiations.

Some may have “creative” ideas and thoughts as to a possible solution for this complicated issue. I myself do not have any magic proposals. I believe that we should step forward and accept a long-term interim agreement. Both sides should learn how to live in peace and cooperation with each other. For the time being, we shall have to agree not to agree on the issue of Jerusalem.

I am sure that a common agreement on Jerusalem is reachable. But it will be found only after a long process of exchanging views and ideas. Each side will have to compromise and agree on common arrangements like those for Har Habayit, the Temple Mount. Israel should stand on the principle of having a vast Jewish majority in the sovereign City of Jerusalem.

It is not far-fetched.

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Haim Ramon, a Social Democrat, is considered to be the closest minister to Prime Minister Barak. Ramon has served as a Member of Knesset for almost two decades. He was the Secretary-General of the powerful Histadrut union and Minister of Internal Affairs. As Minister of Health, he legislated the famous "Health Insurance Act," which ensured universal health insurance. He is married and the father of two children.

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