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Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's opponents from across the political spectrum attacked him from all directions on Wednesday, taking advantage of a Newsweek report quoting his advisor, Kalman Geyer, as saying that Sharon would be willing to concede 90 percent of the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Sharon vehemently denied that he would divide Jerusalem in a speech on Wednesday at a Tel Aviv convention of the Or Yarok organization, which fights traffic accidents. He accused his opponents of exploiting the story to harm him politically.
"There seems to be no limit to the incitement and lies that are being spread," Sharon said. "Everyone using [the report] for political reasons knows that I believe that Jerusalem will be our undivided capital forever.
The Right accused Sharon of "dividing Jerusalem." The Left accused the prime minister of purposely leaking the story to attract voters from the Left.
Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz said he believed that the two-week-old report was "a spin campaign by Sharon's advisers that was intended to appeal to Labor supporters and to divert the public's attention from socio-economic issues and investigations against Kadima officials."
Channel 1 TV's Washington correspondent, Yaron Deckel, who first brought attention to the report on Tuesday's evening news, insisted that the report was not "spin." He said he did not speak to any Sharon advisers and that the timing of his report was coincidental.
"Believe me, I've been around long enough to know when something is spin and when it's not," Deckel said.
Deckel, who served as the political analyst for Israel Radio and Channel 1 for many years before being posted in Washington, said that the reason the two-week-old Newsweek report only made headlines now was because he was in Israel last week and did not see the article until he returned to the States.
Deckel reported on Wednesday night that Geyer and Sharon's associates never complained about the article during the two weeks it was left unnoticed, until it was highlighted on the news in Israel.
The question of whether Sharon would divide Jerusalem became an issue in the Likud leadership race. All the candidates in the race vowed to keep Jerusalem united. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom was the only candidate who did not attack Sharon.
At a tour of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center overlooking Jerusalem's Old City, former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu accused Sharon of neglecting Israel's capital. He said that every Likud government from Begin's to his own developed and strengthened Jerusalem, but the current government did not. Now, according to Netanyahu, it was clear why.
"Newsweek revealed that the people who left the Likud are united by a plan to divide Jerusalem and give up 90% of Judea and Samaria," Netanyahu said. "It's clearer than ever that Kadima would divide Jerusalem, and we in the Likud won't let it happen."
Shinui leader Yosef Lapid said the true fallout from the scandal over Geyer's quote should be a public outcry for Sharon to reveal his true intentions regarding the future of Israel's borders.
Kadima MKs said they believed Sharon's arguments that he would not divide Jerusalem and that Geyer spoke for himself. But the MKs did get angry at Kadima MK and former Laborite Haim Ramon for saying in an Army Radio interview, "No one sane believes that the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem should remain part of the city under Israel's permanent control."