A recently declassified document unveiled that Israel had agreed in principle to relinquish its sovereignty over certain areas of Jerusalem's Old City, including a section of the Temple Mount, during peace talks with the Palestinians in 2000-2001.
According to the document, which was obtained by Ynet, Israel, under the leadership of former prime minister Ehud Barak, demanded eight percent of the West Bank without any land swap in that territory.
This portion of the West Bank was home to approximately 80% of Israeli settlers and a portion of the Palestinian population. In contrast, Israel proposed a land swap in the Gaza Strip, which then included about 20 Israeli settlements housing approximately 7,000 Israelis, but the swap would account for no more than 2% of the land.
The declassified papers were part of the archival file of the late Noah Kinarti, one of Israel's negotiators during the failed peace talks. The documents consist of the formal English-language responses from both the Palestinians and Israelis, highlighting the divergences between the two sides.
Additionally, there is a Hebrew-language document outlining Israel's reservations regarding then-US president Bill Clinton's proposal.
Israel's suggestion in the document stated that from the Jaffa Gate in the Old City, the territory "straight ahead and to the left" would be designated as part of Palestine, while the area to the right would belong to Israel.
The Temple Mount, a highly contested site revered as the holiest in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam, was addressed by the Clinton proposal with two alternatives. Both options would grant Palestinians sovereignty over the Mount, while Israel would retain sovereignty over the adjacent Western Wall.
The first formulation of the proposal also granted Israel sovereignty in "the space sacred to Jews of which it is a part," while the second formulation suggested a "shared functional sovereignty over the issue of excavation under the Haram al-Sharif or behind the wall."
Israel expressed concerns about the vagueness of the first formulation and called for additional details, including the inclusion of the Western Wall Tunnel, the Makhkame building, the City of David, the Mount of Olives, and the Tombs of the Kings and Prophets.
Israel's English-language response, penned by Barak's chief of staff Gilad Sher, was sent to Clinton's national security adviser Sandy Berger in January 2001. Sher wrote that Israel viewed Clinton's outlines as a "basis for discussion" as long as they remained acceptable to the Palestinians and requested clarifications on matters of vital interest to Israel.
Ultimately, the peace talks collapsed due to significant reservations from the Palestinians. The negotiations took place amidst the intense violence of the Second Intifada, marked by a wave of suicide bombings against Israelis that began in September 2000. Following the failed negotiations, Barak lost the subsequent elections.
Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have remained stagnant since 2010, with the prospects for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remaining elusive.
Palestinians rail at Likud lawmaker's proposal to divide Temple Mount
Dividing the al-Aqsa Mosque compound (Temple Mount) between Muslims and Jews would cause “overwhelming anger,” the results of which cannot be expected, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh warned last week.
Shtayyeh, in opening remarks during the weekly meeting of the PA cabinet in Ramallah, called on Arabs, Muslims and the rest of the international community to “move from issuing condemnations to imposing sanctions on Israel to prevent any change at al-Aqsa Mosque and halt any violation of Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.”
Shtayyeh was responding to statements by Likud MK Amit Halevi, who recently told the Zman Israel news website that he was preparing a plan to divide the Temple Mount between Jews and Muslims.
Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this article.