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Israeli control over Jerusalem widely rejected by Palestinians Arabs would hold firm even at the cost of statehood, survey shows

JERUSALEM — JERUSALEM -- Palestinians overwhelmingly reject Israel's claim of sole sovereignty over Jerusalem, even if their position costs them an independent Palestinian state, according to a new survey released yesterday.

That is not surprising because most Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of their hoped-for state.

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A majority of Palestinians also said they have the right to use "all means necessary" to prevent Israel from maintaining sole control over Jerusalem, according to the poll conducted under the auspices of the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland.

In the lexicon of Israeli-Palestinian relations, "all means necessary" includes fighting.

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The intense emotional tie that Palestinians have to the city was reflected in a survey finding that 94 percent would reject Israel's claim "that it alone is sovereign over Jerusalem, even if that was ++ the only way a Palestinian state could come into being."

University of Maryland researcher Jerome M. Segal, a co-author of the study, said the survey should serve as a warning to the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu, a hard-liner from the Likud bloc, sees no compromise on Jerusalem.

"There's no way in terms of a real, lasting settlement that Palestinians would accept anything less than some sovereign rights in East Jerusalem," said Segal, 53, of Silver Spring.

If the Israeli government stands firm on Jerusalem, the issue will remain unresolved and a future conflict could dissolve into religious conflict, Segal said.

"It's a dangerous fantasy to believe you can get the Palestinians to agree to give up their claims to Jerusalem," Segal said. "They'll never do it. What's dangerous is an effort to make it happen. It can result in a conflict that is more Jerusalem-centered and, as such, could be more dangerous for Israel."

Without a compromise on Jerusalem acceptable to both sides, the survey concluded, "it is extremely unlikely that real peace can be achieved."

For a decade, Segal, a Jew, has advanced the idea of Palestinian statehood as a means of furthering peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Long before Israelis would agree even to talk to the Palestine Liberation Organization, the University of Maryland professor generated controversy by meeting with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat 10 years ago.

Jerusalem was divided from 1948 until the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israel captured East Jerusalem and Jordanian territory on the West Bank of the Jordan River. The 1993 peace agreement reached in Oslo, Norway, opened the possibility that the geographic and political map could change in final negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian authority. Those negotiations have yet to get under way because of an impasse in the peace process over the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

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The poll of 1,500 Palestinians was conducted between August and September 1996. It mirrors an earlier study of Israeli Jews' attitudes on Jerusalem. The results of that study were released in January and showed similarly strong feelings about the status of Jerusalem: Israeli Jews want Jerusalem to remain united and under Israel's sole control.

But the study of Israelis suggested that a sizable percentage of Israeli Jews -- 45 percent -- are willing to cede outlying Arab areas of the city to Palestinians. The survey of Palestinians found that a majority of respondents care less about Jewish sectors of the city than they do about Arab neighborhoods.

The study offered several avenues of compromise that might be acceptable to Palestinians. For example, Israel would control Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem, Palestinians would oversee Arab sectors and a similar separation of powers would exist in the Old City, where exist the great shrines of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

A minority of Palestinians and Israelis acknowledge that the other group has some rights on Jerusalem. Segal suggests that this holds potential for increasing public support for a compromise.

Pub Date: 6/13/97

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