Palestinian Minister: We Demand Sovereignty Over Kotel
A top Palestinian Authority official said that the PA was demanding sovereignty over all areas of Jerusalem Israel liberated in the Six Day War, including the Kotel (Western Wall).
Speaking to Channel Ten, Mahmoud al-Habbash, Minister of Holy Places in the PA, said that "there will be no peace until the end of the Israeli occupation that began in 1967. Every piece of land that Israel conquered then belongs to the Palestinians." That includes Jerusalem, "the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Western Wall."
Asked what would happen if Jews wished to pray at the Wall, al-Habbash said "they will be welcome, there will be no problem. There will be no limitations on freedom of religion and worship. Religious ceremonies are one thing, and politics are another."
Under the Oslo Accords, Israelis are supposed to have access to several religious sites in PA-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria. In actuality, however, Jews are almost completely banned from these sites, including the Tomb of Joseph in Shechem and the Tomb of Joshua in Kifl Hares. Jews are rarely allowed to visit these sites, and then only under very strict security conditions. Several Jews, including Rabbi Hillel Lieberman h"yd, have been killed in area of Joseph's Tomb.
With that, Channel Ten quoted sources in the PA that most of the issues brought up in the negotiations being conducted by US Secretary of State John Kerry, including land swaps, have been resolved. But the Palestinians are insisting that all areas of Jerusalem liberated in the
Six Day War, including the Jewish Quarter, the Kotel, and Jewish neighborhoods such as French Hill, Ramat Eshkol, and Har Homa be placed under PA sovereignty. Kerry has spent much time and effort in trying to come to a compromise on Jerusalem, but has so far failed, PA sources said.
Speaking to Channel Ten, the PA's Jerusalem Minister, Abu-Ala, said that the current round of negotiations was one of the most intense ever between Israel and the PA, thanks to the strenuous efforts of Kerry to get the two sides to agree to a negotiation framework.
But he said that effort came with a risk.
"Given the intensity with which the Americans are approaching this, there will probably be undesirable consequences if the talks fail." VJ