World Bulletin / News Desk
PA Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Adnan al-Husseini believes the perennial dispute over the holy city could be easily resolved by making its eastern half the capital of a Palestinian state and the western half the capital of Israel.
"The Al-Quds issue can be easily solved by… reaching an agreement making the eastern part of the city a capital for the Palestinians and the western part a capital for the Israelis," he told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.
"This arrangement would provide an easy exit without getting into complex details that would only prolong the dispute," he added.
Palestinians and Israelis resumed US-sponsored peace talks last July following a three-year hiatus. Al-Quds is one of the thorny topics being addressed in the talks, which focus on so-called "final-status" issues.
Israel occupied Al-Quds during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state.
Since then, Israel has built several Jewish-only settlements in the annexed part of the city while also expanding westward. This has created a western, modern part and an eastern, centuries-old part, the latter of which Palestinians want as the capital of a future state.
Sacred to both Muslims and Jews, Jerusalem's Old City hosts the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which, for Muslims, represents the world's third holiest site. Jews refer to the area as the "Temple Mount," claiming it was the site of two prominent Jewish temples in ancient times.
A senior Palestinian official told AA that US Secretary of State John Kerry planned to visit the region next week to present his viewpoint on a host of final-status issues, including Jerusalem, national borders, refugees, settlements and water rights.
"East Jerusalem is encompassed within the Palestinian state, which the international community has recognized," said al-Husseini. "Anyone can visit the holy sites; no one should be prevented from visiting them."
Al-Husseini went on to accuse Israel of waging an aggressive campaign to "Judaize" the holy city with the aim of effacing its Arab and Islamic identity.
"But it's not too late," the minister said. "The Old City is inhabited by some 37,000 Palestinians and 4,000 Israeli settlers, which is a situation that we can handle."
"But that doesn't change the big picture," he added. "Al-Quds will remain an Arab city."
The minister lamented that 2013 had seen an "unprecedented escalation" of Israel settlement activity in the city, along with Israeli excavations under certain Islamic holy sites.
"And the situation is getting worse," he added. "There are attempts to change facts on the ground, especially in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. We warn against such violations."
In recent months, groups of extremist Jewish settlers, often accompanied by Israeli security forces, have repeatedly entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex. The frequent violations anger Palestinian Muslims and occasionally lead to violent confrontations.
"Last year saw several tests for the Palestinians of Al-Quds, but despite all the Israeli pressures and their limited resources, the Palestinians took a strong stand against all these Israeli procedures," al-Husseini said.
He went on to warn, however, that Israel was pressing ahead with plans to "Judaize" the city, thus changing all of its cultural and educational aspects, while imposing hefty taxes on Palestinian residents in hopes of encouraging them to leave their historical homeland.
For Palestinians, acquiring a building permit in the city is almost impossible, as most areas of East Jerusalem have been designated as "green zones" – in which building is prohibited – by the Israeli authorities.
"Palestinians who want to get married and start a family can't do so in Al-Quds, because Israel denies them building permits – not to mention the skyrocketing prices and high taxes," al-Husseini said.
Yet despite all these hardships, he stressed, Palestinians would never abandon the holy city.
"Al-Quds is a red line; no one can abandon it," he said defiantly. "We will remain here to our last breath."Last Mod: 11 Ocak 2014, 14:45