Sari Nusseibeh: Refugees to replace Israelis in Ramat Eshkol, French Hill
and other Jewish neghborhoods in eastern Jerusalem
Nusseibeh: Post-'67 capital neighborhoods an issue
By Etgar Lefkovits The Jerusalem Post February, 12 2002
JERUSALEM (February 12) - The status of Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem
built on land won in the 1967 war is an issue that must be negotiated as
part of a final peace agreement, Sari Nusseibeh, the Palestinian Authority's
top representative in Jerusalem, said yesterday.
"People living on territory taken by Israel are settlers. What happens [with
them] is a matter that needs to be worked out in negotiations," Nusseibeh
told The Jerusalem Post.
Nusseibeh also said he does not necessarily endorse former US president Bill
Clinton's proposal's for the division of Jerusalem based on the present
He said he supports a complete return to the 1967 borders, and the status of
neighborhoods such as Gilo, French Hill, Pisgat Ze'ev, Neveh Ya'acov, Ramot,
East Talpiot, and Ramot Eshkol would need to be resolved, since Palestinians
view them as settlements.
"My position is that the 1967 line should constitute the border between the
two states. The settlers should return to Israel, and the [Palestinian]
refugees should be resettled in Palestine," he said.
Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert, who in the past has called Nusseibeh "a serious
and decent interlocutor," said last night "Nusseibeh's remarks prove he is
far from being the moderate people attempt to portray him as. It is clear
such a position cannot be viewed as a basis for negotiations."
Nusseibeh said he still believes Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser
Arafat can sign a peace agreement.
"A historic opportunity at Camp David was missed... but I really do believe
Arafat is ready to sign an agreement in the future, provided it is the right
kind of agreement," Nusseibeh said.
"This idea [that Arafat is a captive of his own history who cannot forsake
his past to forge a final peace agreement] may make theorists comfortable
with explaining past events, but I cannot make such a conclusion," Nusseibeh
said, arguing a peace agreement close to that discussed in Taba in January
2001 will eventually be signed.
He said there is "no point" in putting off the prickliest of issues -
Jerusalem and the refugees - even though many Israeli negotiators said those
issues contributed to the collapse of the negotiations.
"There is no reason why we should once again hide our faces in the sand and
indefinitely postpone discussing these issues," Nusseibeh said. He dismissed
as an "interim concoction" talk of another interim agreement both Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres have said would be
most viable when the violence finally ceases.
Arguing that based on his understanding of the talks at Taba, the issue of
the refugees was "not a stumbling block", and that the heart of the
conflict - Jerusalem - was not, in his words, a "totally inscrutable
problem," Nusseibeh said: "We need to deal with these issues head-on, and I
believe it is doable if there is enough creativity courage and will."
Nusseibeh, who was recently asked by Arafat to attend meetings of
Palestinian negotiators but has yet to do so, offered few details or ideas
on how to resolve the issues.
"I am not a negotiator and have no specific solution," he replied, when
asked if he endorses the proposal for "divine sovereignty" for the Temple
When pressed, he said such a definition is "redundant," since one of the
attributes of God is absolute sovereignty.
Nusseibeh and his British-born wife Lucy Austin are awaiting permission to
build a home on a plot of land they bought in the mixed neighborhood of Abu
Since his appointment last fall after the death of Faisal Husseini,
Nusseibeh has incurred the wrath of Palestinian radicals for stating the PA
erred in insisting on the right of return as part of a final peace.
He also told Israel Radio "one would have to be blind not to see the Jewish
connection to Jerusalem," refuting Arafat, who alleged at Camp David there
is no Jewish connection to the Temple Mount.
But untainted by corruption scandals that plague the PA, and - perhaps even
more important for Arafat - no perceived competition due to his preference
for the academic world, Nusseibeh was neither rebuked nor removed.
Yesterday, he chose his words carefully and cautiously. "One has very often
to replace dreams about the past with a vision for the future. Time changes,
reality changes. You cannot go back in time," he said.
He said one should neither "discount nor count on" his being appointed a PA
"Negotiations take up a lot of time, and the people doing it are better than
I," he offered with a slight smile.
Consistently repeating he is not a "pollster" of public opinion, Nusseibeh
said, "I really do hope my assignment will finish as soon as possible. I
really don't fancy being in politics."
Asked if Israel has a moral right to exist after past assertions it "was
born in sin," Nusseibeh said existence precedes morality.
"There is a difference between existing and acquiring the moral right of
exist. No individual or nation is born with a moral right to exist, but
having existed, you acquire the moral right to exist," he said.