Diplomatic collapse in draft deal: Israel to cede Jerusalem's Old City

(Israelinsider) The independent Palestinian news agency Maan published a Hebrew document late last week that purports to represent the "principles" apparently agreed on in negotiations between Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. While the offices of both men denied any connection to it, comments by Israeli President Shimon Peres confirm some of the main points. On one of the most controversial points, that Israel has agreed to surrender sovereignty the Old City of Jerusalem, Peres pointedly refused to comment.

Despite the denials, then, there is reason to believe that the draft does represent or approximate, the emerging deal between Olmert -- who has kept negotiations from almost all of this minister -- and Abbas, who has doubtful authority to even negotiate a deal since his supporters were expelled from Gaza and his headquarters there conquered by Hamas. That apparently hasn't stop the Israeli Prime Minister, evidently with the blessing of eminence grise Peres, who long has pushed for a deal that would redivide Jerusalem.

In its first point, the document states -- adopting Arab language for the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria -- that Israel has agreed to "end the occupation of the West Bank within an agreed-upon time period." adding that "the retreat and the evacuation of the settlements will occur gradually and in several stages. Each area that is evacuated will be transferred to the Palestinian Authority, which will establish law and order there." Sidestepping the fact that the legally elected government of the Palestinian Authority supported Hamas, while Abbas and his Fatah apparatus fled to the West Bank, the document goes on to note that "the existence of a regime in Gaza that is willing to be part of the peace process will enable Israel to view Gaza and the West Bank as one political entity.

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