Two leading opposition lawmakers, Hadash MK Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, and Meretz Chairwoman MK Zehava Gal-On, along with a senior Palestinian official, Mahmud Habash, declared on Wednesday, May 24, their support for the division of Jerusalem in a final peace agreement and the city’s being the capital of two states, Israel and Palestine. They brought up the idea at an event marking 50 years since Israel occupied East Jerusalem.
At the event, MK Odeh expressed his concern over the continuing absence of negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinians governments, a direct result of the far-right positions and aggressive policies of the Netanyahu government, and Israel’s unmitigated creation of facts on the ground that further entrench the occupation. MK Odeh called for the dismantling of Israeli settlements in the West Bank along with the separation wall, and an end to the Judaicizing of the East Jerusalem and the harm being done to the city’s holy places, as well as for an end to Israel’s cantonization of the West Bank. Odeh also called for a renewal of the peace process that will lead to the creation of an independent Palestinian state along the 1967 borders with its capital in East Jerusalem, living in peace alongside the state of Israel, and for a solution to the issue of the Palestinian refugees based on UN resolutions.
“There will be no peace without the division of Jerusalem,” said MK Gal-On. She indicated that in an agreement, “West Jerusalem will be the Israeli capital, and East Jerusalem will be the Palestinian capital.” Gal-On, Odeh and Habash spoke at the American Colony Hotel, which is located meters away from the armistice line that divided the city from 1949 to 1967.
“The PLO peace program includes the establishment of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital,” Habash said. “This program still stands.” Gal-On and Habash also expressed support for some form of land swaps between Israel and the Palestinians, which would allow for changes to the pre-1967 lines in a final agreement. “Exchanges of land will be a part of an agreement,” Gal-On said. Habash said that “the idea is on the table, but the problem is that Netanyahu wants to pick fruits from the tree before it has even been planted.” Odeh said he is open to reviewing an agreement that includes land swaps, but did not want to state an opinion at the current moment. “It’s not my place to discuss this issue, because I am not at the negotiating table,” he said. “But if the Israeli government and the PLO reach an agreement, I will certainly have a position.”