Jerusalem: Israel`s hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday dismissed calls to share the holy city of Jerusalem with the Palestinians, a stand that will further queer the pitch for US brokered West Asia peace talks.
Distancing himself from Defence Minister Ehud Barak`s expressed support for partitioning Jerusalem along Jewish and Arab lines, according to an initiative presented by former US President Bill Clinton in 2000, Israel`s Netanyahu has said that it did not reflect his government`s policy.
Netanyahu`s reaffirmation of his intention to hold on to East Jerusalem was liable to escalate friction between the two sides and with the Americans.
Netanyahu clarified that Barak`s speech to the Saban Centre for Middle East Policy in Washington over the weekend were issued as the head of the Labour party and not as a representative of the government, Israel Radio reported.
The US peace envoy to West Asia George Mitchell is scheduled to arrive this week in an attempt to push stalled peace efforts forward.
The conflicting claims to east Jerusalem lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The dispute over the area, home to sensitive Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites, has derailed peace talks in the past.
Netanyahu has maintained that united Jerusalem, including the part of the city occupied by Israel in the 1967 War, will remain with Israel in any peace deal.
Palestinians see Arab majority East Jerusalem as the Capital of a future independent Palestinian state, and many centrist and left of centre leaders in Israel have also expressed support in favour of the same.
The Israeli premier, heading a heavily right-wing dominated coalition government, has also refused to stop constructions in east Jerusalem though he had unilaterally declared a ten months moratorium on building activities in the West Bank settlements.
In his address to the Saban Centre`s seventh annual forum in Washington, Barak said that Israel should retain control of all Jewish neighbourhoods in the capital and relinquish sovereignty over heavily Arab populated areas to the Palestinian Authority (PA).
This arrangement would be part of a peace agreement under which both sides would declare the conflict over and refrain from setting additional conditions for a settlement, the Israeli defence minister said, emphasising the need for solid and secure borders to enable an enduring two state solution.