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The Israel Beiteinu central committee made a surprising decision on Wednesday to make "keeping Jerusalem Israel's undivided capital" one of its three red lines ahead of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's summit with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas next month in Annapolis, Maryland.
The central committee, which met at the Jerusalem Gate Hotel, referred specifically to maintaining the capital's holy basin under complete Israeli sovereignty, rejecting Vice Premier Haim Ramon's plan for an international presence of moderate Arab countries at Muslim holy sites in the Old City.
Asked how the committee could call for Jerusalem to remain undivided when party chairman Avigdor Lieberman has talked recently about giving the Palestinians some Arab neighborhoods, Israel Beiteinu officials said that Lieberman did not consider these neighborhoods part of the city, and in any case, he would only relinquish them as part of an exchange of populations and territory.
The other two red lines set by the committee ruled out other ideas floated recently by Ramon: The return of a limited number of Palestinian refugees to Israel's final borders due to 'humanitarian concerns' and a road connecting the West Bank and Gaza.
The three principles, which were drafted by MK Israel Hasson, will be presented to Olmert before he leaves to the US. Israel Beiteinu officials said Olmert need not fear the party leaving his coalition over territorial concessions at the summit as long as he did not cross the red lines.
Lieberman told reporters on a tour of Samarian settlements and outposts on Tuesday that he would determine when the next general elections would be held. He said the government's fate was in his hands, because if he removed his party from the coalition, Shas would follow and Olmert would quickly lose his majority.
Senior Shas sources confirmed Wednesday that Olmert sent messages recently to Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef downplaying the Annapolis summit and distancing the prime minister from Ramon's plans for dividing Jerusalem. The messages were relayed to the rabbi through Communications Minister Ariel Atias.
Shas officials said they expected Olmert to resolve the differences between what he told Abbas and Yosef by remaining vague on the Jerusalem issue in his declaration in Annapolis. The officials said opening official negotiations on Jerusalem's future was a red line that would cause Shas to leave the coalition.
Kadima and Gil Pensioners Party MKs on Wednesday joined Shas chairman Eli Yishai's calls for Olmert to delay the summit due to the rocket attack on Netivot and Abbas's insistence on a Palestinian state in every square kilometer of the West Bank.
National Union-National Religious Party faction chairman Uri Ariel circulated a petition to MKs on Wednesday seeking the 40 signatures necessary for a special Knesset session with the prime minister about his plans for the summit. Several coalition MKs signed the petition, including Kadima MK Ze'ev Elkin and Gil faction chairman Moshe Sharoni.
"I would be happy if the prime minister delayed the summit, because there is a lot to lose and nothing to gain," Elkin said. "There is too much US pressure to achieve results at Israel's expense. It is dangerous to make concessions to a Palestinian leader who cannot deliver and who has already announced that he is not seeking re-election. None of his commitments will be honored by his successor, but every commitment we make will obligate us in the future."
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