August 1, 1994
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- Yasser Arafat demanded Monday that Israel start negotiating Jerusalem's future immediately, now that it has reaffirmed Jordan's control of Muslim shrines in the disputed city. Israel refused.
Under the PLO's agreement with Israel in September, talks on the city's final status are to start no later than May 1996.
But by reaffirming Jordan's trusteeship of the shrines in the peace declaration the two countries signed last week in Washington, Israel forced the issue to the forefront, Arafat said.
"If they have decided to start now then we are insisting to start now," the PLO leader told reporters.
Palestinians were enraged by the bow to Jordan's historic role in the eastern sector of Jerusalem, which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war and annexed. They want the sector to be the capital of a future state and believe the reaffirmation of Jordan's special status undermines their claim.
"For us Jerusalem is one issue, one cause, it is not only a political issue, it is a sovereignty issue, it is an issue of holy, sacred places for Christians and Muslims," Arafat said.
King Hussein ruled east Jerusalem before Israel captured it in 1967. The king relinquished claims to the territory in 1988, but Jordan retained control over the trust that runs Temple Mount, the site of Al-Aqsa, the third holiest mosque in Islam.
Negotiations on Jerusalem were put off because the issue is so explosive. Israel considers the entire city to be its eternal and undivided capital, and that position was reasserted Monday by Police Minister Moshe Shahal, who rejected Arafat's demand for negotiations now.
"There is agreement that the issue is not discussed at this stage," Shahal said. "Jerusalem is under Israeli sovereignty and united. It has been so for 27 years and will remain so in the future."