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Israel to Hand Over Arab Villages on Jerusalem Outskirts to PA

(May 15, 2000)

Both the Cabinet and Knesset voted on May 15, 2000, to transfer three Arab villages on the outskirts of JerusalemAbu Dis, Azariya, and Suwahara — to full Palestinian Authority control. The most significant of the transfers involves Abu Dis, which has been talked about as the future capital of a Palestinian state.

The decision prompted the National Religious Party to quit the government, Haaretz reported. Shas and Yisrael b’Aliyah ministers also voted against the plan but did not say whether they would abandon the coalition.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the proposal passed by a vote of 16-6 and represented a goodwill measure to the Palestinians before the third and final West Bank redeployment.

Israel Radio, Kol Yisrael, reported that in a conversation with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, Prime Minister Ehud Barak said that the decision would be implemented only after reviewing Sunday’s and today’s violent protests in the West Bank and Gaza.

“We are in the midst of a diplomatic process whose goal is to strengthen Israel’s security,” Prime Minister Ehud Barak said at the meeting. “In any future settlement, Jerusalem will remain united as Israel’s eternal capital. They [The Palestinians] will be in Abu Dis and we will be in united Jerusalem.”

The villages are already under Palestinian civil control (Area B), but controversy has surrounded the issue of whether to place them under complete Palestinian civilian and security control (Area A).

“We have no interest in annexing 30,000 Palestinians to Jerusalem or Israeli sovereignty,” Barak said. “Experience has shown us that every transfer of this kind has served our security well.”

Meanwhile, according to Yediot Aharonot, Minister of Public Security Shlomo Ben-Ami and Attorney Gilad Sher traveled to Sweden over the weekend for talks with PA officials Abu Ala and Hassan Aspour, who led the Palestinian delegation to Oslo in the 1990s. The two teams were authorized to draft a framework agreement on permanent status, either as a comprehensive agreement to end the conflict or one that establishes a Palestinian state and leaves the remaining issues up for negotiation over a period of several years.

Source: Israel Line, (May 15, 2000).