The petition calling on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert not to give up parts of the city was signed by 61 members of Israel's 120-member parliament, lawmaker Yisrael Katz of the opposition Likud Party said. The petition signaled that an uphill political battle awaits Olmert if he agrees to a compromise on Jerusalem.
Olmert has been meeting regularly with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in an attempt to draft a joint statement of principles that would be announced at a planned U.S.-sponsored regional conference next month and would be the framework for an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. To win Palestinian approval, any such agreement will require Israel to give up some or all of east Jerusalem, which it captured from Jordan in 1967 and then annexed.
Olmert said last week for the first time that some Arab neighborhoods might not remain under Israeli control in the future, revealing his agreement to the division of the disputed city. Haim Ramon, a close Olmert confidant and Israel's vice premier, has also made similar statements in recent months.
But the new petition indicated that Olmert will find it difficult, if not impossible, to get an agreement that includes a division of Jerusalem ratified by parliament.
"The message is clear: Olmert has no mandate to compromise on Jerusalem," Katz said.
Katz said his petition was signed not only by opposition lawmakers but also by members of Olmert's coalition government - including two Cabinet ministers and 13 members of Olmert's own centrist Kadima Party.
Both Olmert and Ramon have mentioned only outlying Arab neighborhoods far from the city center. That is distant from the Palestinian demand for all of east Jerusalem, including the Old City, which is home to shrines holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Disagreements over Jerusalem have played a key part in the scuttling of past peace talks.
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