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East Jerusalem
photo by Rhonda Spivak


by Rhonda Spivak, Dec 17, 2017


The Palestinian Authority is livid that a senior official of the Trump administration said on Friday Dec 15 that the
 the White House “envisions” the Western Wall will remain part of Israel under any accord with the Palestinians. 
In order to understand why they are so livid about this, we need to look back to 2010, when then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed in his negotiations with PA President Mahmoud Abbass's  to putting "the Holy Basin", which included the Temple Mount ad the Western Wall under an international trusteeship.
According to media reports Olmert agreed that Israel would relinquish soveriegnty over the Western Wall and the Temple Mount . They would not be a sovereign part of either Israel or the State of Palestine. The international trusteeship proposed by Olmert  to Abbas was to have constituted Israel, the Palestinian state, the US, Saudi Arabia and Jordan and the idea was that the status quo would have been maintained but under  an international trusteeship. (Note that this international trusteeship would have meant that the three Arab states could out have outvoted Israel on any given issue.) Theoretically , there was to be unlimited access to everyone , including Jews to their holy sites, but there were certainly a lot of Israelis who doubted this would have been the case, once Israel would have been a minority in an international trusteeship arrangement. There is no question Olmert's proposal was unprecedented and it may well be that no Israeli leader will ever again agree to what Olmert proposed.

Under Ehud Barak's peace proposal in 2000, Jerusalem's Old City was to be divided. The Muslim and Christian quarters  were to be offered autonomy under formal Israeli sovereignty, while the Jewish and Armenian quarters were to remain fully under Israeli rule. The Palestinian state would gain religious autonomy over the Temple Mount,  although Israel proposed that an area be set aside for Jewish prayer on the site. ( Clearly, Barak's proposal was not as generous as Ehud Olmert's proposal, as he did not relinquish Israeli sovereignty over the Western Wall or Temple Mount.
Of course, Abbas never accepted Olmert's generous proposal's anyway, and the corrupt Olmert fell from power, going to jail following his conviction for fraud and breach of trust. But, no doubt the Palestinians have always assumed that if and when the peace process resumes they would be handed the concessions Olmert made on a  silver platter. No doubt  they assumed that negotiations would have picked up where they left off with Olmert, since Olmert had lowered the bar so to speak.
Now comes the Trump administration and says not only is Jerusalem Israel's capital, but Israel will keep the Western Wall under Israeli sovereignty. In other words, Trump is telling Abbas that if you wanted the deal that Olmert was giving you, you should have taken it then. You didn't and it's too late-there's a cost for leaving the negotiating table.
The Palestinians, if they wanted to , could now ask Trump since he has declared that  Jerusalem is Israel's capital to declare that  East Jerusalem  is the capital of a future Palestinian state and that the Temple Mount is to be part of a Palestinian state under any peace accord. I personally do not think Trump would  make such a sweeping declaration, but he may be forced to say something in their favour.
In the meantime, it seems clear that Trump will not be as generous to the Palestinians as Ehud Olmert was prepared to be ( and may also not be as generous as Ehud Barak was prepared to be). And that must really be bothering them.
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.