Even if a framework for a final status accord is reached with the Palestinians in the near future, the question of Jerusalem will be left unresolved, Israeli minister Haim Ramon, responsible for Jerusalem affairs, was quoted by the Jerusalem Post as saying.
Ramon, interviewed on Channel 1 Wednesday night, said that "if there is an agreement, it will not include the issue of Jerusalem, because I do not believe it is possible to resolve this delicate matter at this point."
"Both sides have to understand that the other side cannot and will not give up its position, and we have to agree to disagree," he added.
Although there have been conflicting reports as to how well the back-channel negotiations between the sides are going, there seems to be consensus that the question of Jerusalem remains the most difficult stumbling bloc, said the Israeli daily.
"We want to postpone any decision on Jerusalem for a number of years. [The Palestinians] want division of the city. We have not bridged this gap at all," said Ramon, who denied rumors that Israeli negotiators have already made concessions on Jerusalem.
"It's true that it's not good to leave things open; however, the question is what is the alternative. I think that if we do not defer the issue of Jerusalem, we will not reach a deal at all - and this is more dangerous," he said.
As the senior back-channel negotiators, Internal Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami and Palestinian Legislative Council Speaker Ahmed Qurei, sit down Thursday in Israel for another round of talks, Barak intends to tell Clinton at their meeting in Lisbon the same day that Palestinian President Yasser Arafat is being difficult, and that without more flexibility on his part, it will be futile to set up a summit and impossible to move forward to a deal, according to the paper.
The Jerusalem Post also reported that Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy, who has been repeating this complaint for weeks, said in a meeting with British opposition leader William Hague Wednesday that "I would like to be optimistic, but I do not see any signs of flexibility coming from Arafat's side."
Quoting officials in his office, the daily said Barak will also tell Clinton that Israel believes a framework agreement can be reached within two months, and is not keen on transferring more land to the Palestinians before such an agreement is concluded.
Arafat, who is to meet with Clinton next week, has been recently reminding interlocutors that Barak promised to go through with the West Bank third redeployment even if no framework is reached, the report added.
Palestinian negotiators, meanwhile, met with Arafat in Gaza Wednesday night to evaluate the past two rounds of back-channel talks and to prepare for their resumption, a PA source told the daily.
The interim negotiations dealing with the next redeployment, the northern safe passage, the release of tax money to the PA, and the release of Palestinian prisoners were also discussed.
The source denied claims by Interior Minister Natan Sharansky that Israel has offered the PA 90 percent of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley, and has discussed exchanging land inside the Green Line for settlements in the West Bank.
But some PA officials confirmed Sharansky's claim, saying that in some unofficial meetings the Israelis expressed willingness to transfer 90% of the West Bank. One official said the Israelis made the offer on condition that the PA agrees to postpone solving the issue of Jerusalem.
The PA has previously indicated it would consider exchanging land in the West Bank for land in Israel, possibly along the Egyptian border, which would enlarge the Gaza Strip. However, it said this could only be discussed when the two sides have agreed in principle on the borders, based on UN Resolutions 242 and 338, which call for a withdrawal from territories occupied in the 1967 war, added tha paper – Albawaba.com
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