'Diaspora must have say on J'lem future'

Head of J'lem think-tank disputes gov't policy to exclude Diaspora leaders from decision-making.

Jerusalem old city 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Jerusalem old city 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Diaspora Jewry should be consulted over critical decisions on the future of Jerusalem, including a possible division of the city as part of a peace treaty with the Palestinians, the head of a Jerusalem think-tank said Monday. "From all points of view, it is most significant for the future of Israel's relation with the Diaspora to include the leaders of the Jewish People, their organizations and institutions, in critical decisions over the future of Jerusalem, including the possibility it will be divided as part of an agreement with the Palestinians," said Prof. Yehezkel Dror, president of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, in a Jerusalem address. Dror argued that his controversial recommendation to include the Diaspora leadership in any major decision on the future of Jerusalem will serve both to strengthen Israeli-Diaspora relations, as well as to epitomize the centrality of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish People. At the same time, he conceded that the organization's proposal contradicts both past and present Israeli government policy dating back to the establishment of the state to exclude the Diaspora leadership from its decision-making process. "In my opinion, nixing the participation of the Jewish People as an advisory opinion in Israeli decisions that have major significance for the Jewish People was one of the few serious mistakes made by [Israel's first prime minister] David Ben-Gurion," Dror said in an address at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies. The head of the independent Jerusalem-based think tank noted that he has raised his organization's proposal with Israeli and Diaspora leaders, so far without success. The idea comes as Israel and the Palestinians have renewed peace talks after seven years of Palestinian violence, aiming to reach a final peace agreement by the end of next year. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his top ministers have suggested ceding Arab neighborhoods of the city to the Palestinians as part of a final peace treaty. Palestinians claim all of east Jerusalem - including the city's holy sites - as the capital of their future state. Israeli public opinion polls have indicated that two-thirds of the public are opposed to any division of the capital. "If there is progress in the political negotiations, we will reach a point where whether or not we consult with the Jewish People is likely to carry important implications for the benefit or detriment of the future of Israeli-Diaspora relations," he said.