Gov't to Clinton in 2000: Special Authority for J'lem's 'Holy Basin'

Decision came in response to ex-U.S. president's proposal to include Temple Mount in Palestinian state.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Israel told then U.S. president Bill Clinton that it saw particular importance in establishing a special authority in Jerusalem's sacred basin to ensure freedom of worship for Jews and Muslims. This statement, reported here for the first time, came in response to ideas Clinton proposed to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

On December 23, 2000, Clinton sent a document to Israel and the Palestinian Authority entitled, "The Ideas Raised by President Clinton." Clinton stressed that these ideas were not those of a "U.S. president" or the "U.S. government," meaning that they do not currently obligate the Bush administration or any future one.

On December 28, 2000, the cabinet resolved that "Israel sees these ideas as as basis for discussion, as long as they are accepted as a basis for discussion by the Palestinians as well." Ehud Barak and Clinton agreed that Israel's seven-page response, delivered to national security adviser, Sandy Berger, a week later, would be kept secret. At the Taba talks in 2001, the Israeli team realized that the Palestinians did not see Clinton's ideas as a basis for talks.

Before Barak left office in January 2001, he sent letters to Clinton, Bush, Yasser Arafat and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in which he made clear that Israel was not bound by Clinton's ideas.

Clinton's idea on borders was for Israel to annex 4 to 6 percent of the West Bank for the settlement blocs, with the option of leasing other areas, and that Israel transfer to the Palestinians territory equal to 1 to 3 percent of the West Bank, and set aside safe passage through Israel. The Israelis responded that the population of all the settlements would not fit into the West Bank territory that Clinton proposed Israel annex. Israel also said it assumed Clinton's ideas included free access for all faiths to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, Joseph's Tomb and Rachel's Tomb near Bethlehem, and that the safe passage would be under Israeli sovereignty.

Clinton's ideas on Jerusalem called for areas populated by Jews to go to Israel and those populated by Arabs to go to the Palestinians. This saw the Temple Mount and its mosques going to the Palestinians and the Western Wall and its components going to Israel. Israel responded that a different expression should be given to the relationship of each party to the Temple Mount, and that the the Western Wall, the Western Wall Tunnel, and "the remaining part of the wall towards the the Southern Wall," the City of David, the Mount of Olives, the Tombs of the Kings and the Prophets and the Mahkame building be included in the Jewish holy places.

On security, Clinton proposed that only international forces and official security organs be deployed in the Palestinian state, and Israeli forces withdraw over the course of three years. Israel said its ideas differed from Clinton's, and that it wanted Palestinian forces to deal with law enforcement and fighting terror only.

Regarding refugees, Clinton wrote that Israel should recognize the suffering of the 1948 refugees, and that Israel should be the Jewish homeland and Palestine, the Palestinian homeland. "Israel could not accept any reference to the right of return that would ... threaten the Jewish character of the state," Clinton wrote, noting that "the state of Palestine would be the focal point of Palestinians who choose to return to the area."

Israel responded that it saw an ambiguity in Clinton's stance on refugees that should be avoided.

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