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The BBC's Hilary Andersson:
"'Jerusalem is ours" came the chant'
 real 28k

Wednesday, 19 July, 2000, 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK
Jerusalem: Difficult divisions
Palestinian building at Abu Dis
The foundations of the unofficial Palestinian parliament at Abu Dis
By Hilary Andersson in Jerusalem

For months now on the outskirts of Jerusalem in a village called Abu Dis, the Palestinians have been constructing a massive building.

Palestinian rally:
Palestinian rally: "Jerusalem is ours"
Officially, it is just a conference centre. In reality, it is the new Palestinian parliament.

Its location is highly controversial because it is not in Jerusalem proper and does not imply control of the old city.

The spacious room in the middle of the parliament building is said to be Yasser Arafat's new office.

It may not be in the centre of Jerusalem but from the window of the office the city's most symbolic holy site - the Dome of the Rock - can be seen.

The view of Jerusalem's holy sites may be enough for Yasser Arafat.

However, if he trades that in for sovereignty in a peace deal, most Palestinians will see that as a sell out.

East-West divide

Abdullah Boudaria is a 78-year old man who lived inside Jerusalem's ancient walls under Israeli occupation.

Dome of the Rock
Yasser Arafat has room with a view of the Dome of the Rock
He has fought in two of this century's wars over the city.

He took me up to his balcony which overlooks the Dome of the Rock, third holiest site in Islam, which is in the heart of East Jerusalem.

Like many, he believes that Jerusalem should be divided into east and west so that Palestinians and Jews can each have sovereignty.

However, he fears that at Camp David, Yasser Arafat will settle for Abu Dis.

Abdullah Boudaria
Abdullah Boudaria: We will take what we are given
"We will take what we are given," says Mr Boudaria.

"The Palestinians will never get from the Jews, except what the Jews will give them."

"Abu Dis is not Jerusalem. Jerusalem is what's inside these walls."

'Very painful'

We're going to compromise the cradle of our civilisation

Avrham Burg, Israel's parliamentary speaker
Like the Palestinians, Israelis too have taken to the streets in anger.

To some of them, even handing over land near Jerusalem is anathema.

The Jews say that the land is holy and cannot be compromised.

Israel's parliamentary speaker Avraham Burg shrugs the protests off which he says are inevitable at a time like this.

"Israel's going through the most difficult period," he says.

Orthodox Jew in Jerusalem
Jerusalem is holy for Israelis too
"We're going to compromise the cradle of our civilisation - the cradle of our homelands, very important moment in our history. Listen, it's very painful."

"The very summit is a breakthrough. For the first time everything is on the table."

The negotiators at Camp David are closer now to a deal on Jerusalem than they have ever been.

However, the city has been fought over for centuries.

Any agreement they reach will spark anger rooted in age old religious antagonism.

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See also:

18 Jul 00 | Middle East
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18 Jul 00 | Middle East
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14 Jul 00 | Middle East
Analysis: The bottom line
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