JERUSALEM, Israel - Jerusalem has always been the most contentious issue in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and it’s no different now with President Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century.’
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejected Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.
“Shortly after it (the US Middle East peace plan) was unveiled saying a Palestinian state without Jerusalem I immediately rejected this solution. I will not have it recorded in my history, and the history of the country, that I sold Jerusalem,” Abbas told an emergency session of the Arab League.
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman explained the Jerusalem part of the deal.
“Let’s just understand that geography of Jerusalem – Jerusalem is an undivided city within a security barrier and under the Trump plan that undivided city within the security barrier would be 100 percent under Israeli sovereignty with the Temple Mount retaining the status quo,” Friedman told CBN News.
The Temple Mount is under Israeli security control and Jordanian religious authority.
“Beyond the security barrier you still have municipal Jerusalem and in that area there is territory earmarked for a Palestinian capital,” Friedman said.
Abu Dis is part of that area. But Abu Dis Mayor Ahmad Abu Hilal told CBN News that’s a non-starter.
Photo: Abu Dis Mayor Ahmad Abu Hilal
“It’s not on the table. We refuse to be the capital of the Palestinian State,” Abu Hilal said.
“We are part of Jerusalem. We are the suburb of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the historical city of Jerusalem. We refuse that. For me as the mayor of Abu Dis I refuse to (be) the capital of Palestine. I’m a part of Jerusalem,” he added.
Photo: Image of Jerusalem from Abu Dis
In 1996, the Palestinian Authority broke ground to build a parliament building in Abu Dis. It was going to be their Jerusalem seat of government. But the building was never completed.
“They built the parliament because they used Abu Dis as part of Jerusalem. They (had) no walls here. Now they put in the walls. And now everything is different,” Abu Hilal said.
Israel built the security barrier in Jerusalem more than 15 years ago at the height of the second Palestinian intifadah to prevent terrorists from entering the city.
From a rooftop in Abu Dis overlooking the security barrier and Jerusalem beyond it’s easy to see how the two sides were once one.
“We used to walk here (in) the west side ,we used to go into Jerusalem. Before the wall every night we (were) in Jerusalem and watching the cinema,” Abu Hilal said. But not anymore.
Nearby al-Azaria is a mostly Muslim town in a Palestinian Authority area just over a mile from Jerusalem. It’s known in the Bible as Bethany, the place where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.
Al-Aizaria Mayor Issam Faroun said the Trump plan misses the point about Jerusalem.
“The importance of this area, al Eizarayeh, Abu Dis, and other villages here have (their) importance because we are surrounding Jerusalem. Without our Jerusalem, we are nothing here,” Faroun said.
“You are telling me that you are going to (bring) a prosperity and development, new land in Gaza, the 50 billion (dollars). So, the first important (thing) you are taking Jerusalem. You are taking the head of the body,” Faroun said.
Abu Hilal said peace is what’s needed.
“I’m telling you I hope the peace is coming back. Everybody needs the peace. The peace is good for everybody,” he said.
But with the Palestinian rejection of the plan, it’s not likely a peace deal will be signed any time soon.