September 1-4, 2000
volume 11, no. 157-160

NEWS for Labor Day Weekend, September 1-4, 2000

JERUSALEM, Aug. 31 (

    Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have begun considering a new proposal to end the gridlock over the status of Jerusalem by declaring that God alone has sovereignty over the city sacred to three major religions.

    The status of Jerusalem which is claimed in its entirety by Israel as its "eternal, undivided capital" and Palestinians who want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state has become the major stumbling block to progress in the Middle East peace process. The new proposal, still in its tentative, formative stages, would declare God as the sovereign over Jerusalem and its holy places and has earned cautious support from Jerusalem's Israeli mayor and a leading Palestinian official, two of the most rabid opponents to any accommodation.

    Menachem Klein, a member of an Israeli think tank that has been advising Prime Minister Ehud Barak in the negotiations with the Palestinians, said the idea was first floated after July's Mideast summit at Camp David broke down because both Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat insisted they could never give up control over shrines holy to Muslims and Jews.

    At the core of the dispute is the disposition of the Temple Mount, the location of the Jewish Temples and now two major Muslim mosques. If God is declared sovereign over the city, both Barak and Arafat may be able to reach an agreement without being declared traitors by their constituents. Klein said negotiators could then start working out the details of how sovereignty is expressed, such as who would be in charge of security and who would issue permits for renovations.

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