The Israeli cabinet on Monday approved the transfer of two Palestinian villages near Jerusalem to full Palestinian control, a move that could weaken Prime Minister Ehud Barak's ruling coalition.
“By a majority of 15 to 6, the cabinet has decided to accept the proposal of the prime minister to change the status of... Abu Dis and Eizariyeh from area B to area A,” a cabinet statement said.
Barak summoned his cabinet for an extraordinary meeting to discuss the handover of the two Arab villages to full control of the Palestinians despite a possible coalition revolt.
According to AFP that expected earlier the premiere’s proposal would win, Barak is likely to face a tougher test in parliament, as several key members of his coalition have threatened to walk out of the government or vote against the proposals.
Israel has suggested that Abu Dis could be the headquarters of a Palestinian state in a bid to meet Palestinian demands that Jerusalem be its capital without forcing Israel to yield sovereignty over the eastern sector of the city which it seized in 1967.
Israel claims east Jerusalem as part of its eternal unified capital, a position not recognized by the international community, while the Palestinians want the sector as a future capital – (Agencies).
Housing Minister Yitzhak Levy, head of the National Religious Party, said before the vote that the NRP was likely to quit the coalition if Israel gave the Palestinians security control over the villages now under Palestinian civil rule.
The NRP, a strong supporter of Jewish settlement in territory occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, has five seats in parliament, where Barak's coalition has a 68-52 majority.
Barak hopes the transfer of the two West Bank villages will help remove an air of mistrust that has plagued Israeli-Palestinian peace talks aimed at forging a final agreement by September.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)