Israeli Official: Barak's Vision of Dividing Jerusalem Is Not Government Policy

Defense minister suggested to Washington forum that Israel follow plan laid out by former President Bill Clinton in 2000.

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Defense Minister Ehud Barak's expressed support for partitioning Jerusalem along Jewish and Arab lines according to an initiative presented by former U.S. President Bill Clinton in 2000 is not official Israeli policy, an official in Jerusalem said Sunday,

In his address to the Saban Center for Middle East Policy seventh annual forum in Washington, the defense minister said that Israel should retain control of all Jewish neighborhoods in the capital and relinquish sovereignty over heavily Arab areas to the Palestinian Authority.

An Israeli flag is seen back-dropped by the Dome of the Rock Mosque in Jerusalem's Old CityCredit: AP

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, Barak said, emphasizing the need for solid and secure borders to enable a two-state solution.

An Israeli official told The Associated Press that Barak was expressing a personal opinion, not the government's position.

"Those remarks were not coordinated with the prime minister," the official said.

He spoke on condition of anonymity because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not responded publicly to Barak's remarks.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday angered the PA by telling the same forum that Israel and Palestinians both bear responsibility for the failure of the short-lived direct talks that took place in September.

Neither leadership has "yet made the difficult decisions that peace requires. Like many of you, I regret that we have not gotten farther, faster," Clinton said. "Israeli and Palestinian leaders should stop trying to assign blame for the next failure and focus instead on what they need to do to make these efforts succeed."

Palestinian officials responded by saying the secretary of state should have singled out Israel alone to blame.

The Obama administration said earlier this week that it stopped trying to get Israel to renew a freeze on West Bank settlement construction for three months, after a 10-month freeze expired on September 26.

The U.S. now wants to return to indirect talks and Clinton suggested in her speech step up pressure on Netanyahu to move toward establishing a Palestinian state.

"We will deepen our support of the Palestinians state-building efforts because we recognize that a Palestinian state, achieved through negotiations, is inevitable," Clinton said, adding that "the long-term population trends that result from the occupation are endangering the Zionist vision of a Jewish and democratic state in the historic homeland of the Jewish people."

The Palestinians have said they won't resume negotiations without a full settlement construction freeze. Despite their disappointment with Washington's performance, the Palestinians are likely to participate in indirect talks. They said they'll make a final decision within a week.

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