INTERVIEW WITH FOREIGN MINISTER SHIMON PERES ON JERUSALEM

MACNEIL/LEHRER NEWSHOUR

MONDAY, JULY 25, 1994

Q: I’d like to ask you about the role Jordan might play in the future of Jerusalem. Today the president said that as part of this declaration, Israel is recognizing and agreeing to make a priority in the talks about Jerusalem this historic role Jordan has played. How do you envision a role Jordan might play in the future of Jerusalem?

FM PERES: It’s the most crucial question, and a most promising one. The king stood up and said: What is the importance of Jerusalem, its politics or its holiness? If it is its holiness, the representatives of the three religions can come together and find a solution. He says the sovereign of Jerusalem is the Almighty in heaven.

May I say that in January of this year, we reached an agreement with the Vatican, with the Pope, about the relations between our two states, the Vatican and the State of Israel, but also, shall I say so, between our two spirits, the Christian and the Jewish.

Q: Are you saying, in other words, that the Jordanians might be the keeper of the Muslim holy places, or the religious authority for the Muslim part of Jerusalem?

FM PERES: There is a Muslim organization which is in charge of the shrines of the holy places in Jerusalem. Until now, to this very day, it was the Jordanians who were responsible, and in fact the Jordanians were, so to speak, the guardian of the holy places. We said, if this was the case, this will remain the case.

Q: Is your concept, then, that Israel would share religious sovereignty in Jerusalem, but political sovereignty would remain entirely Israel’s?

FM PERES: Yes. What I mean is that Jerusalem is politically closed, religiously open. No serious person will suggest to make out of Jerusalem another Berlin, to have a wall, a split. Jerusalem is united politically, is the capital of Israel, and you cannot have two capitals in one city. It is under Israeli sovereignty. But when it comes to the religious sites not that we are going to share, (but) we are going to respect completely, fully, responsibly the rights, the hopes and the worship of the Christians and the Muslims.

Q: And does King Hussein agree with this formulation?

FM PERES: I wouldn’t like to speak on his behalf, but I would like to compliment him on his understanding and eloquence and ingenuity in trying to lay the foundation for solution, how to co-exist religiously in one of the most holy cities in the world.