National Catholic Reporter

January 17, 1997

page 8

Israelis more flexible on Jerusalem

A new survey of Israeli Jews has found that while 79 percent are opposed in principle to negotiating with the Palestinians over the future of Jerusalem, 45 percent said they would consider a proposal to cede to Palestinian control some Arab villages and settlements that are within the city's limits.

The findings suggest that Israeli Jews are more flexible on the religiously and politically explosive issue of Jerusalem than previously thought, according to the survey by Jerusalem's Guttman Institute of Applied Social Research and the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland.

Survey results show that Israeli Jews are somewhat flexible about Jerusalem's municipal boundaries, which have been enlarged by Israel since it gained control of formerly Arab-controlled East Jerusalem in 1967. Israel has also formally annexed all of the city.

For example, 59 percent said they favored redefining Jerusalem's boundaries to ensure the city retains its current Jewish majority. Jerusalem's Old City, which has an Arab Christian and Muslim majority, was excluded from what those surveyed were willing to give up.

The Israeli government's position is that Israel has sole sovereignty over an undivided Jerusalem. Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of their hoped-for independent state.

The final status of Jerusalem holy to Christians, Jews and Muslims is supposed to be settled in the last stages of the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. The issue is considered perhaps the most difficult of the entire, Israeli-Palestinian dispute.