Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Over the next few days President Clinton will be presenting Israel and the Palestinian Authority with a new plan for moving the stalled peace process forward, one that may make or break his wife's U.S. Senate bid, an Israeli newspaper reports Friday.
In an expected "bridging proposal," Washington will take an official stand on Jerusalem, abandoning a policy upheld through the 1990s that the future status of the city was a matter for Israel and the PA to decide.
Clinton's team of negotiators is suggesting that he propose that the United Nations grant custodianship of the Temple Mount to the Palestinians, The Jerusalem Post reports.
Such a move could anger American Jews and cost First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton the New York Senate race, it says.
"Clinton isn't sure he wants to take this on," the Post quotes a source close to the negotiations as saying.
"It would mean a definite change from long-standing US policy that the two sides should work out the future of Jerusalem ... If you get the president casting a vote in the question of the future of Jerusalem, it is much different than stating that the parties have to work things out.
"The question is how is this going to impact on Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, and the rest of the Democrats. It is very risky to do right in the middle of an election.
"What if most American Jews don't like it?" the source said. "It doesn't take that many votes to bring down Hillary Clinton."
The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv declined to comment on the report.
Yoram Ettinger, a former Israeli liaison to the U.S. Congress, said Friday that the primary focus should not be on the "changing political reality" in the U.S. but rather on "consistent" State Department policy toward Israel and Jerusalem.
That policy, according to Ettinger, is to "roll back the borders of Israel" to the boundaries in place in 1967 and to repartition Jerusalem.
Washington has never recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, nor accepted any part of the city - including western Jerusalem - as part of Israel.
Ettinger charged that this policy has actually "radicalized" PA Chairman Yasser Arafat's positions on Jerusalem and the disputed West Bank. Because the U.S. has called for Israel to compromise on Jerusalem and the disputed territories, he said, the PA went a step further and called for the return of all the refugees who left their homes when Israel became a state in 1948.
On the other hand, Ettinger said, if Clinton had followed the 1995 U.S. law calling for the relocation of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, it would have "forced the Arabs to moderate their own positions," by sending the message that the U.S. was recognizing at least western Jerusalem as part of Israel.
"Why should Arabs be more moderate than Israel's number one friend in the world?" Ettinger asked.
According to the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, which received overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress, the U.S. was obligated to move its embassy to Jerusalem no later than May, 1999.
Clinton avoided it by signing consecutive six-month waivers for reasons of national security. He has subsequently conceded that he did so because he was afraid moving the embassy would harm the peace process.
Last week, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk provoked a storm among opposition Israeli lawmakers when he said publicly that the only way for Israel and the PA to resolve the issue of Jerusalem was to share the city.
"There is no other choice than to share the holy city. It cannot be the exclusive preserve of one religion," Indyk said.
Veteran Knesset member Uzi Landau called for Clinton to replace Indyk because of the remarks.
In a letter to the White House, Landau, who heads the equivalent of the U.S. Senate's committee on governmental affairs, called the remarks "an affront to Israel,
particularly since [Indyk] made them in the heart of the city that he aspires to
"By needlessly raising Arab expectations on the Jerusalem issue, rather than moderating them, Ambassador Indyk has caused inestimable damage to the peace process," Landau wrote, urging Clinton to recall Indyk and publicly disavow the remarks.
The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv sought to downplay the incident by saying that U.S. policy on Jerusalem had not changed - it was still waiting for Israel and the PA to come to an agreement on the city.