Palestinians Demand Jerusalem.
By Susan Sappir (VOA-Jerusalem)
The Palestinians demand Jerusalem as the capital of their future state - ahead of a new round of peace talks with Israel. This Palestinian demand may be one of the toughest issues of all to resolve.
The question of Jerusalem has long been regarded among the toughest in the Israeli-Arab conflict. Israel has its government in the west side of the city which it considers the Jewish state's eternal capital. The Palestinians want to establish the capital of their future state in the east side of the city. The Palestinian cabinet reiterated that position in a statement ahead of yesterday's new round of talks with Israel.
The statement said: "There will not be an agreement if Jerusalem is not accepted as the capital of an independent state." It went on to say east Jerusalem land, occupied by Israel in 1967 along with the West Bank, should be returned according to United Nations resolutions.
Israel says it will not give up control over any part of Jerusalem. Palestinian and Israeli representatives have discussed a proposal to establish a Palestinian capital on the edge of one of the city's eastern suburbs. But neither side has officially endorsed the idea.
The groundbreaking 1993 Oslo accords, which are the framework of today's negotiations, recognized the Jerusalem question as one of the most intractable. The accords allowed the parties to settle some of the smaller problems first, leaving the bigger disputes for a later phase of peace making. In that phase, which is under way now, the parties are trying to resolve disputes over borders, Palestinian refugees, Jewish settlements and Jerusalem.
On Thursday Palestinian negotiators brought a new demand to the negotiating table: they say Israel should compensate them for some 30 years of occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Negotiator Nabil Shaath said the compensation should be for material losses as well as the loss of Palestinian lives during the occupation.