Ex-Israeli Prime Minister, Likud Party leader and extreme right-wing Zionist, Binyamin Netanyahu, is trying to position himself for a second shot at being Israel’s Prime Minister. Speaking in Jerusalem yesterday, Netanyahu demanded that the division of the city of Jerusalem not be part of any of the discussions at the peace conference in Annapolis due later this year.
Likud is not the only right-wing Israeli party that is demanding that Jerusalem remain in its entirety in the hands of the Israelis; Israel Beiteinu and Shas, two of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s coalition partners in the government are threatening to leave the coalition “…if the issue was even raised during the upcoming peace conference” according to a ‘Jerusalem Post’ report on Tuesday. Netanyahu is encouraging them to defect saying that “Olmert is clearly out of touch”.
As Netanyahu demands Jerusalem is not divided, he continues to enjoy popularity in Israeli polls. Olmert, on the other hand, is in a totally unenviable position whereby he is damned by the right-wing of Israel if he does suggest that parts of Jerusalem goes to Palestinian control in a future Palestinian state and damned by the Palestinians if he doesn’t. Not only are the talks doomed to failure for the Palestinians but they seemed to be doomed for failure for Olmert’s own future as well.
Apart from not wanting any part of Jerusalem to be divided, the Israeli right-wing parties are also against the Palestinians having any kind of state of their own, let alone a part of Jerusalem to go with it. Olmert has already told the Knesset that any agreements made at the Annapolis meeting will come to the Knesset for ratification prior to being finally accepted, so he has already doomed any agreement – especially if there is any mention of a piece of Jerusalem being hived off to the Palestinians as part of the deal. A petition has already been signed by more than half of Knesset members stating they would not support a divided Jerusalem. Since the Palestinians will not agree to statehood without at least a part of Jerusalem being part of the deal, the talks are doomed to fail. If, after the failure of the talks which most pundits are already predicting, Olmert still insists on following the road to a two-state solution then his opposition in the Knesset could easily oust him with a vote of no confidence which would put Netanyahu either straight into the Prime Ministership or, if there is an election, his popularity would more than likely get him there anyway.