zalman shoval 88.
(photo credit: )
The head of the Likud's foreign relations department, former ambassador to the US Zalman Shoval, joined calls Tuesday for compromises on Jerusalem when he told a meeting of the Foreign Press Association that his party could allow an Arab or Muslim country to administer the mosques on the Temple Mount.
Shoval opened his remarks to the foreign reporters by insisting that they were unaware of the policies of the Likud if they got their information from the Israeli press.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's overtures to the Palestinians would not bring real peace, but the Likud could, he said. His remarks did not constitute official Likud policy, he said, but they represented "the gist" of the party's positions.
"The question of Israel's sovereignty in Jerusalem, and first and foremost the Temple Mount, is not negotiable," Shoval said. "That said, it is not in Israel's interest to be in any way in charge of the holy places other than [those of] the Jewish faith, and I believe that there are ways - actually there have been plans for a long time - to adopt suitable formulae to this end. Arab and Muslim countries, Jordan for instance, could play a leading role in this."
Shoval told The Jerusalem Post after the event that Israel could maintain sovereignty on the Temple Mount while allowing a country such as Jordan to administer the mosques. He said he would not rule out the Palestinian Authority running the mosques if there were real peace.
As precedent, Shoval cited the 1929 Lateran Accords between the Kingdom of Italy and the Catholic Holy See in which, apart from Vatican City, the papacy's properties remained under Italian sovereignty while being administered by the Vatican.
Shoval predicted that the summit set for Annapolis, Maryland, would not succeed in bringing about genuine peace. He said PA President Mahmoud Abbas lacked the authority to implement any deal he signed, so negotiating the core issues of the conflict with him was a "hare-brained idea."
"The conference has very little to do with peace," Shoval said. "It has everything to do with the political survival - or rather revival - of some of the players and it has every potential of becoming an event where Israel will find itself on the defensive from beginning to end."
Shoval said it was "delusional" for the heads of the government to think that getting Saudi Arabia and other Arab states to participate in the conference would make them part of the peace process. The exact opposite would happen, he said: the Arab countries would move the Palestinians to more extremist positions.
"This government's 'original sin,' so to speak, was agreeing to participate in the Annapolis charade," Shoval said. "What every little kid on the block knows is that in a forum where Israel will be in splendid isolation facing the entire Arab League, the EU, the UN, Russia and who knows who else - I understand there is talk now of South Africa joining - the chances for Israel to have its positions - even the minimalistic ones of Mr. Olmert - recognized are practically nil."