(photo credit: AP)
"The issue of Jerusalem will not be postponed until the end of negotiations," Ahmed Qurei, head of the Palestinian negotiating team was quoted by Israel Radio as saying Friday.
Qurei was responding to statements by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert earlier this week.
Asked about reports that Qurei personally confirmed that there had been secret talks about Jerusalem, Olmert said: "With all due respect, [Qurei] doesn't decide the agenda for the talks. We established a rule that Jerusalem would be discussed last and that's clear to both sides."
However, Qurei said Thursday evening that all 'core issues' would be on the table without exception and without giving precedence to any of them.
Saeb Erekat, head of the PLO's negotiating department, said Thursday that there was no option to discuss certain issues without discussing Jerusalem too. "As far as we're concerned, Har Homa, Givat Ze'ev and Ma'ale Adumim are not part of Jerusalem and also Jewish neighborhoods like Ramot and Gilo are settlements for all intents and purposes."
Erekat's statement, if truly reflective of the Palestinian Authority's position, places a serious hindrance to any progress in talks. The neighborhoods he mentioned are all held in wide Israeli consensus and contain the bulk of the city's Jewish residents.
In an interview with the The Jerusalem Post to inaugurate 2008, Olmert said that even Israel's "good friends" see the country's future based on the pre-Six Day War 1967 borders, including a divided Jerusalem; but he added that he did not envisage a permanent accord along the precise '67 lines, describing Ma'aleh Adumim, for example, as an "indivisible" part of Jerusalem and Israel.