Jerusalem’s mayor rules out any notion of Palestinian rule in the capital, slams Olmert’s peace offer as a ‘terrible mistake,’ and says it’s ‘ridiculous’ that Jews can’t pray on the Temple Mount
Setting out a resolutely uncompromising vision of continued Israeli sovereignty throughout Jerusalem, the capital’s Mayor Nir Barkat rejected any notion of Palestinian rule in any part of the city, and branded international pressure on Israel to freeze building over the pre-1967 lines in Jerusalem as “illegal.”
In arguably the most candid and forthright interview he has given since winning office in 2008, Barkat suggested that if the Palestinians wanted a capital in Jerusalem they could rename Ramallah “Jerusalem” or “northern Jerusalem.”
It was in Jerusalem’s DNA to be a united city, under sole Jewish rule, he said. “By definition, that DNA cannot be divided.” Palestinian demands for some degree of sovereignty in the city, largely endorsed by the international community as integral to an Israeli-Palestinian accommodation, were unacceptable and unworkable, he said. “That kind of thinking will get us nowhere. It will get us to a dead end, to a bad deal… The answer is no separation of the city… If the world pushes us there, it’s just a matter of time before things will fall apart. It will not bring closer a resolution or a better relationship with our neighbors. There is no doubt in my mind. It will get much, much worse.”
When it was put to him that his views ran against the current of international thinking, including that espoused by US President Barack Obama, Barkat said, “Unfortunately, they’re wrong. You want to hear the truth. You want to understand what will work, not what our allies are telling you. And if anything, I would recommend to our allies to ask us and to better understand the big writing on the wall. For every complex problem, there is one simple, wrong answer. What they’re seeking is the simple, wrong answer for this region, for Jerusalem, for the Middle East and for the relationship between us and our neighbors.”
Barkat, who is up for reelection in October, vowed to maintain development across the city for the benefit of all its citizens, in the east and west of Jerusalem, and said Arab East Jerusalemites were increasingly appreciative of his leadership. His master plan, designed to raise Jerusalem’s population from 800,000 people to a million people, “is an honest and fair plan. It enables natural growth, for the Jews and non-Jews alike.”
The mayor was interviewed by The Times of Israel ahead of Wednesday’s Jerusalem Day, when Israel commemorates the reunification of the city under its control in the 1967 war. (The full transcript of the interview will be posted later.) He was also speaking as US efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks intensified in the wake of Obama’s visit to the region in late March and subsequent shuttle diplomacy overseen by US Secretary of State John Kerry.