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Japanese editorial excerpts -- KEEPING PEACE ON TRACK.

TOKYO, Aug. 23 Kyodo

Selected editorial excerpts from the Japanese press:

KEEPING PEACE ON TRACK (Mainichi Daily News, as translated from the Japanese-language Mainichi Shimbun)

Jerusalem's Old City rests on a tiny plot of land surrounded by walls. The district occupies only 1 square kilometer, or less than 1% of the territory of Jerusalem, but contains the holy sites of three religious traditions -- the Wailing Wall, a sacred Jewish site; the Dome of the Rock, the place where the Muslim prophet Muhammad is said to have ascended to heaven; and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the burial site of Jesus Christ.

Since King David declared Jerusalem to be the capital of the kingdom of Israel 3,000 years ago, the Romans, Islamic fighters, Crusaders, Ottomans and the British have vied to exert control over this city.

The fate of Jerusalem was the final sticking point at last month's summit meeting at Camp David between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and U.S. President Bill Clinton. The United States had put forth a compromise proposal that would have placed the Old City under joint administration. Barak was reportedly willing to accept the proposal but Arafat rejected it.

Even though the summit talks eventually broke down, they are historically significant for two reasons. First, the leaders of Israel and the Palestinians discussed the status of Jerusalem in earnest, and put an erstwhile taboo issue on the negotiating table for the first time.

Second, Israel indicated for the first time that it was willing to make concessions on the Jerusalem question. Prime Minister Barak should be applauded for offering a compromise that has left him vulnerable to criticism at home.

Ever since the Middle East peace accord was signed in 1993, the efforts to resolve this ethnic conflict through negotiation have made gradual progress...However, a true peace will not be attained as long as the status of Jerusalem is not resolved.

A certain amount of time and political will are needed to achieve this goal. However, the Palestinians have vowed to unilaterally declare an independent state if an agreement is not reached by the target date of Sept. 13. We urge both sides to avoid rash decisions that would negate the progress that has been made...

Last week, former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and... Yasser Arafat visited Japan to seek Japanese understanding and cooperation regarding a solution...There is still time for Japanese diplomacy to make a difference by fostering an environment that would help to move the peace process forward.

(Aug. 23)
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Date:Aug 28, 2000
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