| Claims site not up for talks, but Palestinians say PM already agreed to forfeiture |
WORLDNETDAILY - By Aaron Klein - November 29, 2007
JERUSALEM - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's statements yesterday that Israel's sovereignty over the Temple Mount is not up for negotiation are "false," according to a chief Palestinian negotiator who told WND the Israeli leader already agreed to forfeit Judaism's holiest site to a coalition of Arab countries.
"What Olmert said [regarding the Mount] is absolutely false. I think he's not yet ready to tell the Israeli public and is waiting for the right time and he fears his coalition with religious extremists will fall apart if he announces it now," said a senior Palestinian negotiator, speaking to WND today from Annapolis on condition his name be withheld.
Olmert's maintains a government coalition with the religious Shas party and Russian Yisroel Beiteinu party but if those two bolt, the prime minister could create a new coalition with leftist parties.
The chief Palestinian negotiator said in months leading up to Annapolis the Palestinian team was "surprised" by Olmert's willingness to give up the Mount.
"We had intense debates on many topics, which remain open and unsettled, but the Harem Al-Sharif (Temple Mount) is not a sticking point. The Israelis didn't argue with us. We were pleasantly surprised Olmert didn't debate about giving the lower section of the [Mount] either, which was a sticking point in the past."
According to the negotiator, Olmert agreed to evacuate the Mount but not to turn it over to the Palestinians alone. The negotiator said both sides agreed the Temple Mount would be given to joint Egypt, Jordan and Palestinian Authority control.
He said the Israeli government felt an umbrella group of several Arab countries controlling the holy site instead of only the PA would help ease Israeli domestic opposition to giving up the Temple Mount, since Egypt and Jordan are considered by Israeli policy to be moderate countries.
The Palestinian negotiator pointed out Israeli prime ministers previously denied withdrawal plans only to later carry them out. Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, elected on a platform against evacuating territory, denied for his first year in office he would retreat from the Gaza Strip but in 2005 he carried out a Gaza withdrawal.
In a briefing to reporters yesterday, Olmert claimed Israel's sovereignty over the Temple Mount is not up for discussion. He said negotiations started at this week's Annapolis summit had no bearing on the situation on the Temple Mount. - - - -