The fate of East Jerusalem and the future of the Golan Heights have re- emerged as issues and potential obstacles in the peace process.
Jerusalem was raised by Israel’s Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, who told a meeting of the ruling Israeli Labour Party on 26 May that he would block Palestinian attempts to set up self-government institutions in East Jerusalem.
‘I believe we will take steps to enforce what is written in the declaration of principles, to the effect that all the Palestinian authority should be located in Jericho,’ Rabin said. Israel radio said the Labour Party meeting had been called ‘to tackle the PLO’s desire to establish political facts in Jerusalem’.
The debate was fuelled on 27 May when a PLO draft constitution was leaked referring to the city as the capital of Palestine. French lawyer Jean- Marc Varaut, who was given the document by PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, quoted it as saying: ‘Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine. During the transitory period Palestinian authorities may set up a headquarters in any other part of Palestine.’
The closure of Orient House, the unofficial headquarters of the PLO in East Jerusalem, will top the Israeli agenda to stop Palestinians gaining a foothold in the city. The Israeli daily Haaretz said on 1 June that Rabin had ordered the police to monitor Orient House for illegal activity.
Talks between Syria and Israel have made no progress since US Secretary of State Warren Christopher left the region in late May. He is due to return in June in a third shuttle tour of the region in as many months.
Both sides have continued the war of words, each accusing the other of stalling the talks and showing no willingness to compromise. Syria is urging the US to step up the pressure on Israel to withdraw from the Golan. The Syrian government daily Tishreen said Damascus had repeatedly affirmed its readiness to make peace provided Israel fulfils all of its obligations on a complete withdrawal.
However, US officials in Washington say the slow pace of Syrian-Israeli talks was putting in doubt a third shuttle tour by Christopher. The secretary of state is also reported to be under pressure in Washington. Newspaper reports say that President Clinton, frustrated by a series of foreign policy failures, is preparing to replace Christopher.